Garda expert says young people reveal too much about themselves online

A Garda expert in child sexual exploitation says young people tend to reveal far too much about themselves online.

Detective Sergeant Mike Smith told a meeting of the Sligo Joint Policing Committee last night that children as young as seven are now being ‘groomed’ within minutes online in what is an expanding area of crime.

Detective Sergeant Smith works with the Online Child Exploitation Unit, based in Harcourt Square in Dublin.

At what was the first public meeting of the Sligo Joint Policing Committee last night, he made a presentation outlining the up-to-date shocking situation with online child sexual exploitation.

He also spoke about what he described as a ‘new level of depravity’ which people are now exposed to online.

He told how imagery of young people is now obtained in two ways.

One is when they post it themselves, which regularly happens when a person puts up images of another after a relationship ends.

There are also people who ‘harvest’ images, often of 13 to 16 year olds, and then put them into international porn sites.

These pictures could be what’s considered ‘normal’ pictures, such as from when teenagers are on a night out.

As regards young people revealing too much about themselves, including posing naked online, Det Sgt Smith revealed how gardai discovered before Christmas that one child as young as six had done so.

He explained that the most common way children are exploited is by others pretending to be someone else in a practice known as ‘cat fishing.’

Det. Sgt. Smith says that most young people now have access to smart phones and tablets, with the result their Main Street is now online.

So what can young people and parents do to avoid exploitation?