Schoolchildren are at additional risk from online pedophiles when trapped at home during the coronavirus crisis, investigators have warned.
In a new assessment, the National Crime Agency (NCA) says there are at least 300,000 threatening sexual assailants, some of whom are discussing how to exploit the school closure.
A separate survey found that 10% of school children say they can do what they want online when they are homebound.
The NCA urges children, parents and caregivers to make sure they are safe online and has launched a set of educational materials for use in home education.
NCA Director Rob Jones said, “Although we work around the virus like everyone else, we continue to prosecute high-risk online offenders to ensure their arrest and protect the children.
“Preventing crime is always crucial, more than ever when there is a mass of online traffic and a potentially high threat to children. “
To illustrate the risks, the agency produced a series of 15-minute activity modules for parents and guardians to complete with the children.
They are available on the NCA social media platforms and on the website thinkyouknow.co.uk.
A survey by Zurich insurers found that one in 10 in 10 to 17 year olds say they are not being monitored online during the lockout because their parents have trouble coping with homework and schoolwork.
The company said it found that one-fifth of those polled admitted to chatting with strangers online and that seven-year-old children spend nearly three hours a week broadcasting live videos of themselves.
Zurich said the survey, commissioned as part of its Safer Schools initiative, showed a 17% increase in live broadcast since the schools closed.
The survey also found that almost three-quarters of the children had a camera on their computer.
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The investigation was led by child protection specialists, the Ineqe Safeguarding Group, whose CEO Jim Gamble said, “While everyone is locked up at home, there may be a tendency to think that our children and youth are somehow safer, simply because we know exactly where they are. However, the truth is that they might not be.
“Children will spend more time online than ever before. They may be tempted to join groups, share intimate images, and participate in live streaming activities while trying to create an online audience.
“We cannot ignore the fact that sex offenders are also seated at home and that most will have access to the Internet. “
Simon Bailey of the National Police Chiefs Council said, “It is disgusting to think that some criminals are trying to exploit coronavirus crisis to cause harm online.
“Despite the problems the pandemic will cause for law enforcement, protecting children is still a priority. “