Young people are being reminded how they can help keep themselves safe online – and avoid becoming a victim of child sexual exploitation.
The regional See Me, Hear Me campaign is encouraging all young people and parents to make themselves aware of how to stay safe online, and how to identify and respond to risky or dangerous situations.
The advice – available on the campaign website, www.seeme-hearme.org.uk – includes ensuring people don’t give out personal information and understand that the internet makes it easy for offenders to ‘hide’ behind fake profiles.
It also encourages young people to not post pictures or videos online which they would not want their parent or carer to see, and not to meet up with people they have met online.
Parents are encouraged to talk openly to their children about their online activity and help them understand what is safe and unsafe, to make use of parental controls and to limit who their children can speak with via online gaming.
Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton
Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "It is vital young people understand the importance of staying safe online.
“With the internet and in particular social media and online gaming becoming such a big part of young people’s daily lives, we want them to be able to enjoy their activities without putting themselves at risk.
“While they can’t monitor every click, parents and carers should be open with their children and talk to them about online dangers, such as child sexual exploitation.
"By giving young people a few key tips about how to stay safe online and encouraging them to share it with their friends we can stop the perpetrators in their tracks.
“Preventing child sexual exploitation is everyone’s responsibility and I would urge people to visit www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to find out more.”
Online grooming can affect both boys and girls and can happen through social media, gaming, chatrooms or other online communication.
It can take a number of forms and could see children being manipulated into sharing indecent images or agreeing to meet someone wishing to sexually exploit them.
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or in an emergency call 999. Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk.
West Midlands councils including Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull are working with West Midlands Police to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation across the region through the See Me, Hear Me campaign, launched in June 2014. For more details, please visit www.seeme-hearme.org.uk.