Letter to the Editor from Barnardo’s NI

Dear Sir/Madam,

As a parent you love your child and want to protect them. You want them to be happy and safe as they grow up and make friends.

But imagine how you would feel if you discovered your child was being sexually exploited. You would want them to trust you so that you could help make it stop.

Barnardo’s has launched a hard-hitting TV advert to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation which will be run until the end of March.

We want parents to be alive to the tell-tale signs that their children may be vulnerable to abuse.

Many hundreds of young people are putting themselves at risk every month and a survey of Barnardo’s specialist services has shown that many are being groomed and exploited online and are going missing from home or care every month.

Young people are being targeted by perpetrators through a variety of mediums including social networks like Facebook,instant messagingapps, dating apps, photo sharing apps such as Snapchat and via online gaming.

These shocking findings serve as a reminder of the importance of being aware of the signs of child sexual exploitation.

We want all parents and carers to feel comfortable talking to their children about this difficult subject, helping them to stay safe online and in their everyday lives.

Barnardo’s has identified three questions that parents should be asking their children:

How much do you know about the people you spend time/chat with? Do you feel safe with them?

Has one of your friends ever given you a gift or bought something for you and you didn’t know why?

Has anyone ever asked you to do something that made you feel uncomfortable? Would you talk to me if someone did?

Barnardo’s is here to help. If you are concerned that your child is at risk of sexual exploitation you may want to contact one of Barnardo’s services for advice. Please call our supporter careline on 0800 008 7005 or the NSPCC NI dedicated helpline providing 24 hour confidential advice regarding child sexual exploitation: 0800 389 1701.

There is further advice for parents on the Barnardo’s website: www.barnardos.org.uk or www.safeguardingni.org

With more children seeking our help, your ongoing support is needed more than ever. To support a child in crisis visit www.barnardos.org.uk/donate

Yours faithfully,

Lynda Wilson

Director Barnardo’s NI