“She didn’t believe he would do it. And he did. He sent it to … not just school friends, but school kids that are around her,” Lizzie said.
The photo was subsequently shared among children at the school and used to bully Lizzie’s daughter.
Assistant Commissioner Gale urged parents and carers to pay attention to child protection advice, understand what their children are doing online and have open conversations with them about the dangers.
“The biggest misconception is that parents think it won’t happen to them, and it won’t be their kids. But let me tell you … it can happen to you and your children,” she said.
Between July 2020 and June 2021, the child exploitation centre received more than 22,000 reports of online sexual exploitation in Australia.
In an open letter to Australian parents, Assistant Commissioner Gale said investigators were constantly working to protect children and arrest predators and wanted tip-offs from the community.
“Almost every second day, the AFP reveals another offender has been charged with online child sexual abuse-related charges,” she said.
“But parents also need to give their children the confidence to speak up if they have been targeted or abused.”
One AFP officer said the stereotype of offenders does not always conform to a stereotype depicted in movies or media coverage.
“The reality is that online offenders can be any age, any gender, from any background and from all walks of life. So, they’re not always the creepy older male lurking in their parents’ basement that we often see portrayed,” the officer said.
Those arrested by police are male and female, employed and unemployed, partnered and single.
One AFP officer urged parents to understand what content children see online, how they interact with others, and the platforms and applications they use.
The approach is “pro-technology” and aims to help families have trusting relationships to avoid online dangers and respond to any incidents.
The ThinkUKnow education program is provided in languages other than English to help migrant parents strengthen their understanding of risks in the online environment and how child grooming can happen.
Advice on reporting abuse can be found at the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation website. If this article has raised concerns for you, support is available by phoning Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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