One-third of Yorkshire children supported by Barnardo’s to escape sexual exploitation were targeted on social media networks.
Barnardo’s is now warning parents to ‘spot the signs’ their child is at risk.
The warning coincides with the launch of a hard-hitting TV advert highlighting the issue of child sexual exploitation, with new research revealing hundreds of children are being targeted online through social media networks, including Facebook, Snapchat and instant messaging apps.
A snapshot survey of 29 Barnardo’s specialist services has shown that during September last year, technology was used in the exploitation of 370 out of the 562 sexually exploited children the charity worked with.
Barnardo’s director in Yorkshire Steve Oversby said: “We want all mums and dads to feel comfortable talking to their children about this difficult subject.
“Children need to stay safe online and in their daily lives while still having the freedom to explore as they grow up.
“Only by knowing what to look for will we be able to protect children from abuse and help more victims come forward and get the support they need.”
The charity is warning parents to be on the look out for changes in the behaviour of their children, including regular episodes of staying out late or not returning home.
The appearance of unexplained gifts or possessions could also be a sign that children are being groomed.
Barnardo’s urges parents to be aware of the extent of their children’s online lives.