Canterbury Police are urging parents and children who use social media to be vigilant after they received a complaint from the mother of a 12-year-old boy on Saturday relating to threats from a Facebook user.
The complaint alleges that the boy was asked to send naked photographs of himself to a Facebook user who had just friended him. The boy refused to send photographs and the Facebook user is then reported to have responded in a threatening manner.
Police investigations into the incident are continuing.
Mike Kneebone, Canterbury Police Constable, says “this is the only complaint we have received so far in Canterbury District but we know of at least one other 12-year-old boy who may have also been approached by this user. We ask anyone else who has been approached in a similar way to contact us as their information may provide information that is vital to this ongoing investigation.”
While this particular police investigation revolves around Facebook, the risk exists with other social media platforms where users can make unsolicited contact. The Online Child Exploitation Agency of New Zealand (OCEANZ) receive reports of grooming and inappropriate contact by online predators almost every day.
The Officer In Charge of OCEANZ, Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael, says “New Zealand Police advise parents to monitor their children’s online activities. However with most children having access to a handheld internet capable device such as a Smartphone or tablet, the parents role has changed from one of monitoring to mentoring and education.”
“As children have more unsupervised access to the internet and social media platforms it is more important that they understand the messages around internet safety,” he says.
“There are many things that parents and children can do to protect themselves online including checking privacy and security settings on social media platforms so that your profile is only visible to friends and not accepting friend requests from people you do not know.”
“Be aware of stranger danger when you’re online and do not engage in conversations with people you don’t know and never take and send a photo of yourself to them,” he continues. “If you are concerned about someone’s online behaviour tell someone you can trust in the first instance such as a parent or teacher and, if appropriate, report it to police.”
The New Zealand Police website has some useful information relating to online child safety.
Canterbury Police encourage anyone who has been approached in a similar manner by a Facebook user to report it your local Police station or, if you are in Canterbury, call 03 363 7400 and selecting option 5.
In an emergency always dial 111.
Information can also be provided anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111