TEENAGERS are being blackmailed by online crooks pretending to be interested in having a relationship with them.
Glasgow youngsters have been tricked into sending compromising images of themselves to people they have met online, only to be told to cough up cash or the pictures will be published for friends and family to see.
In one case in Glasgow, a teenager handed over around £600 over a six month period before finally telling a parent who contacted the police.
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The scammer was posing as a 25-year-old Malaysian who was flirting with the teenager online.
Constable Colette Farron, the Knightswood secondary school Campus officer, has organised two days of unique events for school pupils to help raise awareness of online dangers including grooming, sexting, sexual discrimination and bullying.
She hopes it will help tackle the “rising problem” of internet safety affecting young people.
On Monday, a group of around 30 second years will have a day of workshops led by Barnardos to talk about online safety.
The following day, every member of the school’s 1st year group will be having a day of theatre workshops where they will act out scenes on cyber safety and talk about scenarios which could come up online.
More than 200 kids will go through the workshops.
Constable Farren said: “These workshops will be helping to educate the kids more about sexting, peer-gender bullying, alcohol, and domestic violence and online crime which is a huge issue at the moment.
“They can be very easily groomed and not be aware of it.
“Taking it to the other extremity you have radicalisation which can happen.
“Children are in their bedrooms On a laptop, and there is the possibility that they are being groomed and not even being aware of it until it’s too late.
“If they do end up sending photographs in, once they are out there they are out there forever.
“It’s a sore lesson to learn and that is what I want to try to teach the children.
“It’s (happening) at home time in their own bedrooms.
“They are using sexting as a form of communication and children seem to think this is acceptable - sending photographs of their bits and pieces as a form of communication.
“Before long it can escalate and the images have been passed on to people’s pals and then it becomes a big drama with tears.”
Constable Farren said she has seen a rise in online problems, particularly with bullying, in the last few years.
She explained: “Without a doubt it’s getting worse. When I was at school and you had a fall out with someone you finished in a Friday and by Monday it had been forgotten.
“Now it is going on for seven days, over the whole weekend, 24/7.
“I’m hoping that these workshops will help to tackle some of these problems and make sure our kids know how to stay safe and be respectful online.”
If you are concerned about your child’s internet safety, or cyber crime, contact Police Scotland on 101.
Further guidance is also available from Barnardos, kidsmart.org.uk and childnet.com.