27 September 2023

Police urge families to have tough conversations

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Police are urging parents and carers to have age-appropriate conversations with their children about personal safety online and what to do if they find themselves in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Detective Acting Inspector in the Victorian Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET), Carla McIntyre said JACET had seen a marked increase in the reporting of online child sexual exploitation.

Detective A/Inspector McIntyre said that in the 2021-22 financial year, the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) received more than 36,000 reports of child sexual exploitation, which were then passed on to law enforcement in the relevant States and Territories to investigate.

She said online child sexual exploitation included a wide range of behaviours and situations, such as grooming, live streaming, consuming child sexual abuse material, and coercing and blackmailing children for sexual purposes.

“Talk to your children from an early age about online safety, in particular about the risks associated with talking to people you haven’t met in person,” Detective A/Inspector McIntyre said.

“As parents, when we were young, we were warned of ‘stranger danger’ and perhaps not getting into a car or going anywhere with someone you didn’t know,” she said.

“These days, ‘stranger danger’ is on the internet.”

Detective A/Inspector McIntyre said parents and carers should establish rules and boundaries with their children for appropriate online use.

She advised them to be aware of safety and security settings on apps – “this could include turning off location settings, setting profiles to ‘private’ or turning off chat functions”.

“You should also educate yourself to understand the technology your children are using – that way, you’re across the privacy settings you could have in place to mitigate any harm, and you’re also aware of where the harm could potentially come from on that particular app or device,” she said.

“With open lines of communication, you’ll be more approachable in the eyes of your child if something doesn’t feel right and they do need help.

“And critically, if something does go wrong online – know how to support your child and to report it.”

Detective A/Inspector McIntyre said it didn’t matter how small or insignificant a piece of information seemed, as it could later prove vital in an investigation.

She said anyone who contacted police would be supported and treated with respect, courtesy and dignity.

“If you, your child, or anyone you know is subject to any type of concerning behaviour like this online, we would urge you to contact police and discuss the circumstances with us,” Detective A/Inspector McIntyre said.

Information on reporting the abuse or exploitation of children can be accessed on the ACCCE’s website at this PS News link.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available, visit www.accce.gov.au/support to learn more.

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