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Clare Gardaí are appealing to parents to be involved in their child’s online life following a reported “traumatic” incident over Christmas week for one family in the county.

During Christmas week a report was received from a parent that her teenage son, who believed that he was speaking to a female on his Facebook account, sent explicit pictures of himself to this person.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Tríona Brooks stated, “Shortly after this a demand was made for a substantial amount of money or else the pictures would be shared. No money was given over and the link was shared with some of his friends but fortunately the link could not be opened. This was very upsetting and traumatic for the parent and teenager”.

Sergeant Brooks added, “Children are spending a lot more time on-line at the moment. It’s no harm to have a conversation with your child about the importance of their safety when online. Children need to understand that they must not share any personal information online. It is vital that parents have that all important conversation with their children”.

Risks associated with online activity for younger persons as identified by Gardaí include loss of privacy – sharing information in public that should be kept private, inappropriate content – adult material violence dangerous dares or challenges, cyberbullying – bullying in the form of abusive and threatening texts or emails, messages on social media and chat rooms or the posting of photos, online grooming – individuals targeting children through sexual coercion or extortion.

Brooks advised, “The most important thing is to communicate with your children about what they are doing online. Familiarise yourself with the apps and websites they are using. Learning about the internet is the most effective way for you to protect your child from online dangers. Be involved in your child’s online life, set rules and limits for internet use and keep the lines of communication open with your child and make sure your child can come to you if anything happens online that upsets, worries or scares them”.

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