Parents are being warned some of their children’s Christmas gifts could potentially expose them to predators.
If the technology they receive is connected to the internet, children can communicate with strangers without parents knowing, Australian Federal Police warn.
Parents need to supervise children when they are playing games, communicating or watching programs.
AFP Commander Hilda Sirec says it’s also important to understand how their children’s technology works and connects online.
The warning on Wednesday comes after the AFP charged 187 people with 1966 child abuse-related offences this year.
Reports of online child sexual exploitation spiked in 2020, with perpetrators taking advantage of COVID-19 lockdowns to access and share horrific content.
Predators targeted children and young people who were spending an increasing amount of time online.
Those arrested include members of a domestic online network who are accused of sexually abusing children and sharing videos and images of their crimes.
Offenders are typically more active during school holidays, trying to groom children or obtain online child sexual exploitation material.
The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation is receiving reports of children interacting with offenders online – even while a parent or carer is nearby, or in the same room.
The AFP has found many images of self-produced child exploitation material, including material obtained by offenders who groomed and coerced children and young people to produce images.
Foreign law enforcement agencies are also seizing child exploitation material involving Australian victims.
Commander Sirec says parents and carers need to engage in their child’s online activities.
“We know this is a busy time of year, but please talk to your children about who they interact with online and what platforms, apps and games they are using,” she said.
“Supervision is not only critical to prevent an incident occurring, but can also help adults to quickly take action if something goes wrong.”