Nearly 200 suspected paedophiles were arrested in just one week as investigators warned of a rise in the use of live streaming to groom, blackmail and abuse victims.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said a UK-wide operation in October had saved 245 children from harm and 192 people were detained.
Nearly a third (30%) of the cases involved the most serious offences including live streaming, blackmail and grooming and 18 of those arrested were said to be in a position of trust, working in areas such as teaching, healthcare and criminal justice.
Police believe dangerous suspects are using live streaming to bombard their targets with comments, using dares, threats or the offer of rewards such as ‘game points’, to try and manipulate them into nudity on a webcam.
The NCA, along with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), launched a campaign on Tuesday to encourage parents to be alert to the dangers of live streaming and warn their children of the risks.
NPCC lead for child protection, chief constable Simon Bailey, said: “In just one week, police forces and the NCA arrested 192 offenders on suspicion of child sexual abuse offences and prevented 245 children from coming to harm.
“We will keep working together to do this, adapting our approach so that nowhere online is safe for people out to groom children or view them being abused.
“But we also need help. We need internet companies to help us stop access to sexual abuse images and videos and prevent abuse happening on their platforms.
“We need parents and carers to talk to their children about healthy relationships and staying safe online.”
An online survey, answered by 927 people, found 84% said they were alert to the online threats children faced but 58% are unsure if their internet security is strong enough and 30% said they had not spoken to their child about web safety in the last month.
“We know that as children’s online habits change, offenders are adapting with them,” the NCA’s head of safeguarding Zoe Hilton said.
“These individuals are learning how young people communicate online and are using this knowledge to contact, befriend and abuse them.
“It’s great to see that so many parents are aware of the potential dangers children face online, but with this campaign we’re asking them to make sure they familiarise themselves with their children’s online behaviour and keep that knowledge up to date.
“Offenders will take advantage of the fact that young peoples’ inhibitions are lower online so we’re also encouraging parents to talk to their children about what a healthy relationship looks like and how to spot when someone might not be who they say they are.”
An animation will be released online, schools will be given classroom materials and new guidance for both parents and children on the risks posed by live streaming will also be available from the NCA CEOP’s education programme Thinkuknow.