LIMERICK gardai investigating allegations a young girl was sent “disturbing” and “naked” images by a person claiming to be another young girl have warned parents about the potential dangers of their children spending time online.
Detectives attached to the Garda Divisional Protective Services Unit (DPSU) are investigating a report from a parent that their young daughter was sent “inappropriate pictures she discovered on the girl’s phone”, said Sergeant Ber Leetch, Crime Prevention Office at Henry Street Garda Station.
“The young girl told her mother that she had been in contact with a new friend on-line, they had been chatting for a while and the daughter believed that her new friend was a girl and the same age as her,” Sgt Leetch explained.
“When the young girl was asked to send photos of herself naked she knew that she had to confide in her mother. Then she received images from her new ‘friend’ that she found very disturbing, fortunately in this case the child was able to speak to her mother and a Garda investigation has now started,” she said.
Advising parents about their childrens safety online, Sgt Leetch said: “It is vital to 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.”
“Now that children and teens are being educated from home they are spending a lot more time on various screens but they also have access to more on-line time too,” Sgt Leetch warned.
Set Leetch said parents should be aware the online world can “put their child at risk” and “could put them in danger”.
These risks include:
• Loss of privacy – Children could be persuaded to share information that should be kept private.
• Inappropriate content – Children could discover adult or violent material, or dangerous dares or challenges.
• Cyberbullying – Gardai know from reports that cyberbullying in the form of abusive and threatening texts, emails or messages on social media is widespread.
Sergeant Leetch said “parents must familiarise themselves with the apps and websites their children are using”.
“Learning about the internet is the most effective way for a parent to protect their child from online dangers; in other words, be involved in your child’s online life and set rules and limits for internet use.”