Parents and carers are encouraged to look out for signs of grooming and sexual exploitation in their children’s behaviour in the latest phase of an awareness campaign launched this week.
Using the message ‘Could this be your child?’, the campaign highlights the key warning signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE) to enable parents and carers to identify concerns and get help.
Initially young people may seem excited about new groups of older friends and parents may notice that they receive unexplained gifts. But their behaviour may then change to being secretive, moody, withdrawn, skipping school, staying out late, changing their appearance and telling lies, along with signs of physical abuse.
The campaign will directly target parents and carers through the digital platforms they use, including gaming, entertainment and mobile messaging apps, social media and online magazines.
It will also feature on a large digital roadside screen at the junction of the M6 and M5 and posters at Birmingham’s New Street Station and the NEC.
It is the latest phase of the See Me, Hear Me campaign from West Midlands Police and the seven West Midlands councils, including the City of Wolverhampton Council, to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “Many of the signs of CSE in young people may, on their own, just seem to be normal teenage behaviour, but put together they could indicate something far more serious.
“With this latest phase of the campaign we want to highlight the warning signs to parents and carers so they can identify concerns and get help.
““Preventing CSE is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to increase our awareness of it to help keep our children safe.”
“CSE is a hidden crime, which affects both young men and women, and I would urge people to check out our website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to find out more.”
The website is a one-stop shop for information about CSE and how to spot the warning signs, along with help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools.
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101 or speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 359 5333. In an emergency always dial 999.
Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk.
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk.