424 children a year abused online and blackmailed
Children as young as eight are being abused and blackmailed online by paedophiles, a new research by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) has revealed today.
Ceop said hundreds of children are being targeted by internet blackmailers who force youngsters to film themselves performing sex acts or self-mutilation because they fear having their naked pictures sent to their families.
In the last two years, 424 children have been blackmailed and driven to self-harm and suicide by their abusers of which 184 cases are from the UK.
Experts say the abusers generally operate behind fake profiles and pseudo usernames on social networking sites and chat forums.
The perpetrators pretend to be children themselves and start with a friendly chat with their victims. They later persuade youngsters to join private forums and chat rooms, tricking children into posting compromising pictures of themselves. Later, these cyber bullies demand their victims to perform sex acts and threaten them with their pictures going public.
Cases show children have been forced to film themselves on webcams going naked, writing degrading statements on their bodies and even cutting themselves for the tricksters’ pleasure.
Commenting on the findings, the deputy chief executive of Ceop, Andy Baker said: “These offenders are cowards. They hide behind a screen, and in many cases make hollow threats which they know they will never act on because by sharing these images it will only bring the police closer to them.”
The report reveals one small ring of paedophiles overseas pressured more than 300 children, including 96 from Britain, into performing sex acts online.
Figures show that seven victims have committed suicide over blackmail, including a 17-year-old British teenager, Daniel Perry from Dunfermline in Fife, who died on 15th July after being tricked into thinking he was talking to an American girl online.
Experts believe that British children are easier targets due to the accessibility of the English language and the foreign perception of UK society as liberal and open minded.
In a message to the offenders, Mr Baker said: “We will come after you. You aren’t beyond our reach. Click by click you are drawing us closer, every time you share an image, you draw us closer.”
The NSPCC has set up a 24-hour helpline (0800 328 0904) for children and adults who are worried about such blackmail. Abuse can be also reported to Ceop at www.ceop.police.uk.