A STARK warning has been issued to parents after an abuse charity revealed that a ‘large majority’ of youngsters in Burton have encountered some form of online sexual grooming.
Bosses from the Sexual Abuse Rape Advice Centre (SARAC) contacted the Mail after seeing an astonishing rise in the number of children across the area who have been approached on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter by adults trying to entice them into a sexual relationship.
SARAC manager Tracey Hardie decided to issue the desperate plea to children and parents to become ‘extra vigilant’ after watching a television documentary on a man named Stinson Hunter who poses as underage girls online in a bid to try to entrap adults setting out to groom them.
She told the Mail: “I think the documentary shone a light on just how big an issue the online sexual grooming of youngsters is.
“However, what people do not understand is how big of an issue this is in the Burton area.
“We are dealing with around 31 youngsters at the moment aged between 13 and 18 who have been involved in some form of grooming – five of which specifically related to online grooming.
“What astonishes us is the ease of online grooming and how social media has made it even easier.
“Another astonishing issue is, during visits to schools across Burton, how the majority of youngsters in the area have encountered some form of online sexual grooming.
“We are now trying to urge both children and parents to be extra vigilant to make sure that they or their children do not fall victim.
“We are finding that if we get to speak to youngsters and educate them, then they are very savvy and know what to look out for.
“What is clear is that a lot of young people are encountering this issue on a daily basis and we all have a major role to play in stamping it out.
“The internet, smartphones and social media all open the world up for youngsters today but, what we have to remember is that it also opens youngsters up to the world.”
Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of grooming is urged to call SARAC on 01283 517185