'Justin Bieber impostor' case highlights dangers faced by children online


The recent case of a man who posed as pop star Justin Bieber online to groom children once again shows the dangers that youngsters face while online.

The man, 42, masqueraded as the Canadian singer to gain explicit images from children, He was charged with 931 crimes, including three of rape, with 157 alleged victims in multiple countries.

Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of e-safety organisation Internet Matters, said: "It is a shocking thought that someone is able to pose as an international pop star and win over the confidence of children online to be able to groom them in this way. It also highlights how, no matter how digitally savvy you might think your children are, they can still be vulnerable and might not have the emotional maturity to understand that it is not a real pop star they are talking to.

" This reinforces the need for parents to be aware of what their children are doing online and to talk to them about what kind of information they are sharing and who they are sharing it with. Make sure too that your children have privacy settings on social media so only friends they have in real life can contact them."

How to keep your children safe from online grooming

1. Ask your child what they are doing online. It's important you understand what websites, apps, and social media platforms they are on.

2.Check their privacy settings. Make sure they know how to make their profiles 'private' so they are not sharing personal information to strangers. For example, Facebook has a Privacy Heathcheck feature.

3. Make sure they know when and how to report and block any malicious or inappropriate messages or posts.

4.Be careful about over-sharing personal information such as your school, telephone number or anything that identifies where you might live. Consider not using your full name for your profile.

5. Use the 't-shirt test' when it comes to sharing images online or sending pictures or videos to friends: Would you wear it on your T-shirt? If not, then don't send it.

6.Have regular conversations with your children about the risks they may be exposed to and how to deal with them, such as cyber bullying and grooming, and ensure they feel able to come and talk to you if they see anything upsetting.

7. Use the Justin Bieber case as an example of how some people online are not who they say they are.

For more information and step-by-step advice on how to keep your kids safe online go to internetmatters.org.
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