Given the increased use of the internet during the current lockdown, police on Tuesday urged children as well as their parents or guardians to be extra wary of possible sexual solicitation and exploitation of minors.
In a statement, the force said that despite popular misconceptions, research has shown that sexual exploitation of minors does not necessarily involve physical contact, a kidnapping or some other physical form of violence, but rather over half of victims ‘meet’ the perpetrator online.
Sexual exploitation of minors often occurs when someone exploits an underage person for their own benefit, be it for money or to acquire compromising audiovisual material featuring nudity.
Online predators usually try to earn a minor’s trust by using a fake profile and information, pretending to have similar interests to their target.
The police urged parents to first and foremost speak with their children about these issues. Parents or guardians should take an interest and be aware of the online activities of their children, such as which websites they visit or which apps or social media they use.
Users should take basic precautions, such as setting privacy settings on high, for example on apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and also on gaming consoles. The settings should be set so that access to one’s profile and personal information is restricted only to those whom the user knows.
The police recommended a video that deals with the subject of sexual coercion and extortion of minors, which parents can watch with their children at: https://youtu.be/5ttHYODhenY.
Parents or guardians can look for signs in a child’s conduct that may indicate the child is being coerced or exploited online. These include the onset of aggressive behaviour, apathy, introversion; heightened use of mobile phones or devices linked to the internet; the existence of a ‘romantic partner’ who is older than the child; or having many online ‘friends’.
Should children be asked to do something online that they are uncomfortable with – like sending images or videos and using webcams – they must report this to an adult they trust or even to the police.
Where such soliciting or grooming is established, users should immediately cease contact with the person soliciting, stop sharing any material, do not pay any money, and report the incident.
Reports and complaints can be made as follows:
Contact the police’s Office of Combating Trafficking in Human Beings by dialing 22-808063, or send an email to: [email protected]
Contact the police’s Cybercrime Unit by dialing 22-808200. Alternatively you can fill out a form online at: https://cybercrime.police.gov.cy/police/CyberCrime.nsf/subscribe_gr/subscribe_gr?OpenForm
Use the crime reporting app, available for download at: http://mobile.cypruspolicenews.com/landing/Desktop#.XorqDogzaUk
Contact police headquarters, by dialing 1460 or (00357) 22 808080, or send an email to: [email protected]