Paedophiles Have
Approached 20% Of
Children Who Use
Online Chatrooms
By David Bamber - Home Affairs Correspondent
One in five children who use computer "chatrooms" has been approached over the internet by paedophiles, says the police officer heading the Home Office's internet crime forum.
Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Akerman, who has prepared a report detailing the extent of the problem, is advising parents to house computers in a main living area so that the use of the internet can be supervised.
Last night Mr Akerman said: "There is clearly a problem out there of which parents and children are not yet fully aware. The aim of this report is to highlight the dangers and suggest practical ways the risks can be reduced."
Mr Akerman said: "Part of the problem is that we are dealing with new technology and in many cases the children understand it better than the parents. Some parents rely on their children to set up the computer, so it is hard to impose controls on them."
The report suggests that all internet companies operating in Britain should implement safety measures, such as on-screen disclaimers, to help prevent adults entering chatrooms aimed at children. It also recommends that new "alarm" mechanisms be placed on all website chatrooms aimed at young people so that children can immediately contact help if anyone makes an inappropriate or dubious approach to them.
Parents will have to be told about the possible dangers of allowing their children to use the internet when they subscribe to any online service.
A six-point guide to safe use of chatrooms will also be issued to parents and children to ensure that they know how to avoid falling into a molestor's clutches. The Chatwise, Streetwise guide is expected to be given out in schools in a similar way that the Green Cross Code is for road use.
It will tell youngsters never to give out any personal information on the internet, never to arrange a meeting without informing parents, and not to get into an exchange of emails with anyone suspicious. Children are often lured to websites used by paedophiles by the use of toy brand names in their web addresses. The recommendations and guidelines contained in the report are being studied by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary.
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