Police ready for rise in sexting and exploitation as schools go back after lockdown

8th March, 2021 2:13 pm

Officers from Northumbria Police’s safeguarding department are working closely with schools to make sure anyone who has been targeted during lockdown feels safe to come forward.

Detectives are bracing themselves for a rise in sexual exploitation and sexting cases as children return to the classroom.

With the majority of youngsters being away from school for more than two months and spending more time online, police believe many may have been more vulnerable to those that want to take advantage of them.

And without trusted teachers to talk to and the normal safeguarding mechanisms in place at school, abuse could have gone unreported.

But a top safeguarding detective says the return to school after lockdown is a ‘golden opportunity’ for police to build relationships with young people, and encourage them to speak about anything that has happened to them.

Det Chief Insp Lynne Colledge, of Northumbria Police, said: “Realistically we are expecting to see a rise in in reports in relation to child safeguarding and exploitation. Exploiters do not stop during lockdown and there have been more children spending more time online.

From this week Northumbria Police’s specialist schools liasion officers will be working closely with schools to help support children and teachers.

It is hoped that young people who had perhaps not felt able to report something that has happened to them during lockdown will now feel safe to come forward once they are back in the safe school, environment.

“The kids have been in lockdown, and the usual safeguarding at schools is an important factor for some children,” said Det Chief Insp Lynne Colledge. “With lockdown it has been difficult so we would encourage our officers to build that trusting relationship at schools.

“We want to hit as many schools as possible. We want to encourage children to come forward and speak to trusted adults.

“It’s very much about police being visible in schools and building these trusted relationships with young people and giving them the confidence to come forward.

“We want them to speak to a trusted adult about anything that is making them feel uncomfortable.”

Police are also launching a campaign to educate youngsters in spotting the signs of exploitation, and the implications of ‘sexting’, a term used to describe the sending or forwarding of sexually explicit messages, pictures and videos.

“With us coming out of lockdown we will be doing a road show on the themes of sexting and exploitation,” said Det Chief Insp Colledge.

“With sexting it’s very much about educating young people about the long-term consequences of things being put on social media. They are committing a criminal offence be doing so, but it can also have long-term implications for things like finding a job.

“We have got a package for schools on our website and a news letter to go out to schools to promote the campaign. We want to reach as many schools as possible.”

Source: The Chronicle Live

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