Did you know the number of children exploited online doubles between the ages of 11 and 12-years-old?

This means secondary school children are most at risk, particularly as they begin to explore social media and online gaming more.

With our online presence being a part of our everyday lives, we all have a part to play in helping to safeguard our children from those who use these platforms to cause harm and exploit them.

What advice would you give parents or carers?

In December last year, Essex Police launched a new webpage called Sort Your Settings. It was designed to give practical tips to parents or guardians to help make their children’s online devices safer.

This includes how to check, change, or update parental controls, plus information about game ratings, social media and more.

Giving your child the space to talk about being online from a young age could help them as they grow up and start to increase their online interactions.

It is not always easy to spot the signs of exploitation, especially when it might be taking place online. Some children may not even realise they are being groomed when they are offered in-game gifts, credited money or even just enjoying a new friendship.

Some of the more physical and emotional signs to look for could include a dramatic change in appearance, acting more secretively, unexplained injuries and going missing from home and school.

Where else can you get help?

There is also a wide range of information available and most social media platforms have dedicated areas on their websites.

The Essex Safeguarding Children’s Board website contains lots of practical advice on a variety of child safety issues, including advice on how to bring the subject into normal everyday life.