The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) have warned of a concerning rise in the use of webcam by sex offenders to blackmail children and young people online. CEOP have investigated a number of cases in which sex offenders have used blackmail to force young people to perform sexual acts on webcam. In the past two years, the CEOP centre has been involved in 12 operations where blackmailing children into performing sexual acts has been a clear motive of the offender. In that same period it has also discovered - using information from police forces in the UK and abroad - that 424 children have been a victim of online sexual blackmail, with 184 from the UK. Research also shows that of those victims, seven children seriously self-harmed or attempted to take their own life, including six from the UK. Seven children took their own life, including one from the UK.

Typically online sexual blackmail happens as follows:
  • An offender makes contact with a young person. This can happen anywhere online, including on a social network, in a chatroom, in a game or even on their mobile.
  • The offender begins a conversation and tricks the young person into sending them an indecent picture, appearing naked or performing sexual acts on webcam. They trick them in a variety of ways including: pretending to be a girl or boy of the same age, pretending to be someone the child knows, flirting with them or sending them sexual pictures or videos.
  • The offender records the webcam footage. They then threaten to share the video with the young person's friends or family if they don't perform more sexual acts. Some young people have been threatened for money or told to hurt themselves.

This has happened to hundreds, potentially thousands, of young people in this country and this is sexual abuse. The emotional impact can be devastating. A full press release from CEOP can be found here

New materials have been published by the CEOP Education team as part of the Think U Know resources to help schools and organisations to run assemblies and workshops to raise awareness amongst young people of this type of crime. To help run sessions with young people CEOP have launched a suite of resources which includes:

  • A fully scripted PowerPoint for use as an assembly, workshop or lesson
  • A factsheet to handout to young people
  • A letter to send or email to parents encouraging them to talk to their children about this type of crime

All of these resources can be downloaded from the Thinkuknow resources area (in the 11-16 section) at: www.thinkuknow.co.uk/teachers/resources

Young people might feel like there is no way out but they can always report to CEOP online at Thinkuknow or visiting the CEOP Safety Centre
Young people can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or report concerns using the ClickCEOP button which is assessed by trained and experienced child protection workers. The NSPCC have also set up a dedicated helpline for young people (and adults who may care or support them) suffering this type of crime - this helpline will be available 24/7 throughout September and October 2013. Please share this number with the children and young people you work with: NSPCC helpline: 0800 328 0904.