Merseyside Police is giving advice on how to keep children safe online during the coronavirus pandemic.
In recent weeks, we have recorded an increase in reports of child sexual exploitation, with criminals using the internet to access indecent images of children and to make attempts to groom young people.
With children and young people spending more time at home – and possibly on mobile phones, computers, games consoles and other devices – it is more important than ever to know what children are doing online.
Detective Superintendent Susan Coombs, of the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit, said: "I want potential perpetrators of child sexual exploitation to know that we are monitoring this issue very closely, and have investigators who specialise in this area working all year round. They are online and will find you if you continue your activity.
"My appeal is for parents and guardians to make sure they know what apps their children are using, and exactly who they are interacting with.
"Some children will recognise when messages they receive are inappropriate, or from an unknown person, and inform an adult they trust. We would urge those adults to make us aware so that we can provide sensitive support for the child and to investigate further and aim to bring the perpetrator to justice.
"But some children are more vulnerable, and might not spot the signs. Our message to anyone using the internet is that not everyone online may be who they appear to be, and children should only communicate with people if they know they are who they say they are.
"I also want to take this opportunity to re-iterate the importance of setting parental controls on computers, games consoles and electronic devices to keep your children safe, so they are not exposed to potentially harmful and inappropriate material online."
Advice and guidance for children, young people and adults to help them stay safe online is available at:
Any adults with worries or concerns about a child’s welfare can call the NSPCC’s Helpline on 0808 800 5000
The NPSCC have published advice on online safety here: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/
If you believe your child is a victim or at risk of child sexual exploitation online, DM @MerPolCC on Twitter, message ‘Merseyside Police Contact Centre’ on Facebook or call Merseyside Police on 101. Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If the life of a child is in immediate danger or a crime is ongoing dial 999.