A national children's charity has issued a plea to parents to talk to children about staying safe online after self-proclaimed paedophile hunters caught a man sending explicit messages.
Suresh Varsani, 27, is behind bars after sending sexual messages and pictures to what he believed were two girls aged 12 and 14.
The married Wembley man was caught "red-handed" by the Paedo Hunters 24/7 group - with his phone in his hand - after he shared his location and told the 'child' he was in his work changing room with an erect penis, a court heard.
Following Varsani's sentencing, an NSPCC spokesperson said: "Varsani’s victims were fictitious but the threat he poses to children is very real and it is right that he has faced justice for his actions."
They continued: "The effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime and – where there are real-life victims – significant help and support will be required.
"This case shows just how vital it is for parents and others talk to children about how to stay safe online.
"Online safety advice is available on our Net Aware and Share Aware websites, or via the NSPCC and O2’s online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002."
Signs of grooming
If a child is being groomed, they may:
- be very secretive, including about what they are doing online
- have older boyfriends or girlfriends
- go to unusual places to meet friends
- have new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can't or won't explain
- have access to drugs and alcohol
The charity previously found the internet was used to commit an average of almost three child sexual offences a week over London in a 12-month period.
Figures obtained by the NSPCC from the Metropolitan Police under the Freedom of Information Act show that 152 sex crimes were committed against children as young as eight in London in 2016/17, up from 83 in 2015/16.
The findings, released in June this year, led the NSPCC to urge police forces to ensure all officers understand how people use the web to prey on children, how to investigate such crimes and how to effectively safeguard victims.
How grooming happens
Tactics used by groomers can include:
- pretending to be someone they are not, for example saying they are the same age online
- offering advice or understanding
- buying gifts
- giving the child attention
- using their professional position or reputation
- taking them on trips, outings or holidays
Anyone who is concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. Children and young people can call Childline on 0800 1111 or get help online .
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