Police warning to parents after Facebook grooming reports

PUBLISHED: 10:27 30 December 2010 | UPDATED: 10:33 30 December 2010

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POLICE have issued a warning to parents in East Cambridgeshire following reports that a man was attempting to groom schoolchildren through social networking sites like Facebook.

POLICE have issued an urgent warning to parents in East Cambridgeshire following reports that a man was attempting to groom schoolchildren through social networking sites like Facebook.

East Cambridgeshire Sector Inspector Andy Barlett, said officers had been informed that a man posing as a child had attempted to gain personal information from students at two secondary schools in the area.

The man had claimed to be a student due to start at the schools in January and made efforts to befriend the children. He was also able to get some of the children to use their web cameras.

A police spokesman said: “We have received several reports regarding concerns over adults purporting to be children on social networking websites.

“We are investigating these incidents. I would urge people to be vigilant when using such sites and parents should monitor their children’s internet usage.

“You should not disclose personal information to strangers and not agree to a ‘friend request’ unless you are confident you know who it is from.”

According to police, three names being used by the man - Harry Clark, Mike Smith and Elton Steinbeck - have so far been traced but officers warned that there may be others. Suspicions about the man were first raised late last year but it is believed he may have been operating on the site for some time prior to this.

Hundreds of letters were sent out to parents before schools broke from Christmas urging them to be aware of what their children were doing online.

In her letter to parents, Catherine Jenkinson-Dix, headteacher at City of Ely College, said: “I am sure that you will discuss with your child the dangers of using the internet and ensure that they do not put themselves in a vulnerable position, and that they take extra precautions now that they are home over the festive season.”

Several high-profile incidents involving social networking sites and grooming have lead to online ‘panic buttons’ being made available on sites like Facebook that allow users to contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) directly.

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