UK & World News
British Kids Targeted By Paedophiles Online
British children are being blackmailed into performing sex acts online by paedophiles who threaten to send obscene images of the victim to their family and friends.
Investigators from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) centre said children as young as eight have been targeted and are being driven to self-harm and suicide by their abusers.
In the past two years, 424 children worldwide have been blackmailed in this way, of whom 184 were from the UK, Ceop said.
Experts believe thousands of British children could have been targeted by abusers intending to trap victims.
Internationally, seven victims committed suicide, including 17-year-old Daniel Perry from Dunfermline in Fife, who died on July 15 after being tricked into thinking he was talking to an American girl online.
Another seven seriously self-harmed, of whom six were from the UK.
Experts believe British children are targeted because of the accessibility of the English language and because foreign abusers believe the liberal nature of UK society makes them an easy target.
Ceop operations manager Stephanie McCourt said: "First of all it's the English language. They are able to threaten the children if they can communicate to them.
"Second of all, the offenders have actually said that because they perceive the UK as a very free and open and liberal society, they think that they will have more success in targeting UK children."
Paedophiles create fake online personas to pose as children, even geographically researching the areas where they wish to target victims, and persuade them to share sexual images or perform sex acts on camera.
They then threaten to share the pictures or footage with the victim's family or friends, and force them to perform more extreme sex acts on camera, and even harm themselves.
John Carr, a government adviser on online child safety, told Sky News: "These people are very skilled liars and manipulators. They search for children who are looking for friendship.
"These children are vulnerable and the offenders know that, that's why they go after them.
"It really does undermine the importance of parents having some very difficult conversations with their children about the kind of individuals that are out there and how important it is to be careful when you get into conversations with strangers.
"The key message here is that the online world is no different to the real world."
Ceop says that blackmail can be reported to the NSPCC helpline on 0800 328 0904, or to police.
Reports of abuse can also be made at the Ceop website www.ceop.police.uk.