Crime generic, online, children, grooming
Crime generic, online, children, grooming

Parents warned to be vigilant with rise in online child predator risk

A volunteer for a charity project fighting child abuse and sex trafficking says every parent needs to be aware of online predator interaction, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lizzi Webb, a volunteer with Darwin's Project Karma, said before COVID-19 there were an estimated 750,000 child predators online daily.

She said all parents, now more than ever, must remain vigilant of their child's online use as the rise of online predators sparks major concerns.

Ms Webb said the recent rescue of four Australian children who were victims of a global child exploitation ring was proof of the threat.

In one of the largest joint operations in the country - led by the Australian Federal Police and spread across five states - 16 people have been charged with 728 child exploitation and sexual abuse offences after a two-year investigation into the online exchange of child pornography.

The arrests come as former Northern Territory Police Commissioner and now AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw warned of a spike in traffic across the so-called dark web, including live-streaming and incidents of child sexual abuse and child grooming since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Ms Webb urged parents to strictly monitor their children's online activity during the lockdown.

Glen Hulley, former Victorian police detective and founder of Project Karma, said the risks to children from online predator crimes right now have jumped exponentially.

He said the main weapons against these crimes were being crippled by COVID-19.

"COVID-19 has hampered many government agencies with shutdowns or at reduced capacity in many countries," Mr Hulley said.

"Child project non-government organisations are facing reduced funding and therefore reduced capacity. Child predators know this."

Project Karma fights child sexual abuse with an innovative and comprehensive program in three separate areas, namely local community awareness and education; investigation, arrest and prosecution; and finally victim support and rehabilitation.

"We fight any and all child sexual abuse, whether committed by locals or foreigners, tourists or child traffickers," Mr Hulley said.

Project Karma are running an emergency appeal to help roll out online tools to help teachers, parents and kids stay safe and vigilant in these unprecedented times.

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