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The Children in the Pictures

Why am I posting photos of attending a movie premiere you might ask?

CONTENT WARNING: The following will discuss child exploitation material

The movie was not your typical movie to hit our screens, it is a critically important documentary titled The Children in the Pictures. As a primary school teacher for 12+ years and now working in the space of online safety education, the lessons from the documentary have to be shared. Shared with parents. Every parent.

Online child sexual abuse is the fastest growing major crime in the world.

I want to draw your attention to two distinctly different forms of child exploitation material that exist:

perpetrator produced & self produced

Your child’s risk of being offended against in the physical offline world, directly by a perpetrator, remains as it always has been.

Social media apps increase the risk factor exponentially.

What I want to share with you is the alarming spike in self produced (sometimes referred to as ‘user generated’) child exploitation material. This type of offending can, and does, affect children who are in safe homes surrounded by safe family and carers. Every parent must understand that this is a very real risk to be considered the moment you allow your child on the internet. Social media apps increase the risk factor exponentially. If your child is playing games online or has access to any app that has direct messaging (Discord, Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat etc) it’s not a matter of if they will have contact with potential offenders but when. Typically (but not exclusively) an offender will form a relationship, often through pretending to be someone they’re not, with a child through direct messaging. The offender will groom and manipulate the young person to send explicit images of themselves (often starting with more innocuous images in an attempt to desensitise them). Once the offender has an image, this gives them the opportunity to blackmail (‘sextort’) the child. They will use this against them, saying things like “I’ll share that photo with your Mum/Dad/friends if you don’t do as I tell you”. The offending then has the potential to escalate dramatically. This whole process can happen very quickly, it is not always a case of days or weeks or months.

The offending then has the potential to escalate dramatically.

Last night the premiere was followed by a discussion panel featuring the documentary creators together with one of the Argos taskforce police detectives. So, what was the most critical advice for parents that they all agreed on?

They pleaded with parents not to just ignore the issue in the hope that it won’t happen to their child. It is critical to bring it out into the open and talk about it. Talk about it with your friends, fellow parents and most importantly with your children. As a mentor parent, opening up these conversations makes it so much more likely that children and young people will reach out when they find themselves confronted by such situations.

More information for parents & carers:

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