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Children targeted for online abuse

Children are being groomed by paedophiles purely for online sexual abuse, experts have said.

Sex offenders are targeting children so that they can watch them performing sexual acts over the internet.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) said that for these paedophiles, physical contact with the children does not appear to be a motivation.

It follows the conviction in December of two brothers in Kuwait who targeted 110 children worldwide, including 78 in the UK, and forced them into performing sexual acts online.

CEOP also said that of 1,145 reports of online grooming last year, just 7% related to trying to meet a child in person, a drop from 12% in 2011.

Chief executive of CEOP Peter Davies said: "On a daily basis we see the devastation caused to young people's lives by online grooming. What we are seeing is that for a growing proportion of grooming cases reported to the centre, online abuse is an end in itself. UK children can be targeted from anywhere and offenders will cast their net widely to target large numbers of children."

According to figures from Ofcom, six out of ten 12 to 15 year olds now own a smart phone, and that the number has increased by a fifth in the past year. More than two-thirds of those do not have parental controls installed on their phones.

CEOP also said that instant messaging on some phones is used by paedophiles to groom potential victims. It was used by offenders to make contact with children in around third of public reports of grooming in 2012/13.

Claire Lilly from the NSPCC said: "The internet is part and parcel of young lives and most can't remember a world before it existed. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle, but we can talk to young people and educate them on staying safe online just as we do about stranger danger or drugs. We are seeing a sharp rise in young people contacting ChildLine about being approached online, sending images to strangers or being exposed to online pornography."

CEOP and the charity are encourage parents and carers to talk to children about what they do online on Safer Internet Day tomorrow.

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