Parents and carers are encouraged to look out for signs of grooming and sexual exploitation in their children’s behaviour in the latest phase of an awareness campaign launched this week.
Using the message ‘Could this be your child?’ it highlights key warning signs to help parents and carers identify concerns and get help.
Initially young people may seem excited about new groups of older friends and you may notice them receiving unexplained gifts. But their behaviour may then change to being secretive, moody, withdrawn, skipping school, staying out late, changing their appearance and telling lies, along with signs of physical abuse.
The campaign will directly target parents and carers through the digital platforms they use.
Using a mix of animations and banners it will be delivered through popular gaming, entertainment and mobile messaging apps, social media and online magazines.
It will also feature on a large digital roadside screen at the junction of the M6 and M5 and posters will feature at Birmingham’s New Street Station and at the NEC.
This is the latest phase of the See Me, Hear Me campaign from West Midlands councils and West Midlands Police to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
It follows a summer digital campaign which targeted young people to look out for signs of CSE among their friends.
Councillor Ian Cooper, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said:
“Many of the signs of CSE in young people, on their own, may just seem normal teenage behaviour, but put together they could indicate something far more serious.
“With this latest phase of the campaign we want to highlight the warning signs to parents and carers so they can identify concerns and get help.
“We’ll be raising awareness with them directly through the digital platforms they use so they can look out for the signs and help keep their child safe.
“CSE is a hidden crime, which affects both young men and women, and I would urge people to check out our website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to find out more.”
The website is a one-stop shop for information about CSE and how to spot the warning signs, along with help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools.
It has been updated with this new phase of the campaign and features all materials to download.
Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council and regional lead for CSE added:
“Child sexual exploitation is a hidden crime, which affects both young men and women, and can be hard to identify.
“Parents or carers spotting a change in behaviour may think this is normal, but being aware of the warning signs and acting on them early can prevent abuse happening or escalating.
“By delivering the campaign through popular apps, as well as social media and online magazines we can directly talk to parents and carers, as well as the perpetrators themselves.
“Preventing CSE is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to increase our awareness of it to help keep our children safe.”
The campaign will be running across the region throughout October.
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 359 5333 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk
Notes to editors
The See Me, Hear Me campaign was launched in June 2014 by Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull councils, along with West Midlands Police, to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
CSE can affect any child, anytime, regardless of their social or ethnic background. It is child abuse and involves perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.
It can take place in many forms, whether through a seemingly consensual relationship, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for some kind of payment, such as drugs, money, gifts or even protection and affection.
Warning signs of CSE include having friends who are older, persistently going missing, secretive relationships with unknown adults, truancy from school, chronic fatigue, constant calls on a mobile phone and the possession of money or new things.