Predators #exploiting #Irish children through #video-chat sites, warns #expert

Parents are being urged to disable their children’s computer webcams in a bid to stop paedophiles accessing images of them.

Cyber watchdog Bully4u’s chief executive Jim Harding says anecdotal evidence gathered from school kids nationwide shows children are being exploited by predators using randomised video-chat websites, without them even knowing it.

Bully4u was set up eight years ago and aims to provide training to primary and secondary schoolchildren as well as teachers on the dangers of the internet and cyber bullying.

Commenting on the growing threats out there, Mr Harding said: “Social media, new websites and apps spread like wildfire. When we started, Facebook was huge amongst children. Now it’s disappearing, because their parents are on it so they’ve moved on to Instagram and Snapchat.

“We consider this to be a very serious child protection issue and are trying our best to ensure that the school authorities inform the parents/ guardians. The biggest challenges facing schools are still these anonymous chat roulette sites and sexting.

Mr Harding said it’s important to realise that kids are not at all clued in to how dangerous certain websites can be.

He added: “They’re not aware of the digital footprint they’re creating and not aware of the dangers of various sites. They need to be educated about the consequences of their digital behaviour.

“I have serious concerns that video-chat websites are being exploited by paedophiles to obtain and coerce images. The State needs to block websites which allow predators to exploit children.

“I called on politicians to intervene four years ago, but to date nothing has been done. There is technology to block sites, why can’t we do this to protect our children from paedophiles?”