Belfast Telegraph

Even toys are tools for sexual predators

Editor's Viewpoint

We have all heard warnings about how children can be exploited online, and many distressing cases of such abuse have been well publicised.

This type of cyber-crime is on the increase, and parents need to be aware of what their children are viewing on the internet and who they are in contact with on social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

But our story today of how an old-fashioned communication system being sold as a toy can also be a channel of abuse will further alarm parents, especially since many such devices were undoubtedly bought as Christmas presents.

Walkie-talkie sets have always been a popular toy but have obviously grown in sophistication in recent times, with several channels and a range, in ideal conditions, of up to two miles.

But the parents of two young girls who got such a present this Christmas could not have foreseen that a man would intercept their chats and try and persuade them to talk to him.

Even when they changed channels, the man followed suit and continued to attempt to engage them in conversation.

Fortunately, the young girls had been warned by their parents of the dangers of being approached by strangers, either in person or by electronic communication, and promptly told their family, who reported the incident to police.

That shows the value of drumming into children that some people may try and entice them to do something they should not and that they should immediately tell a parent or guardian if such approaches are made.

But the incident also shows that all types of communication can be open to exploitation and that even a toy can be a device used by sexual predators.

There are many dangers, particularly for children, in the world today, and this is a timely warning of another potential one.

Of course, these toys are meant for harmless fun, yet there may be people out there who would use them for sinister purposes.

Hopefully, now that police have been alerted to the incident, they will be able to find out who was involved and decide if his behaviour was inappropriate.

It is also to be hoped that legislation on the use of communications equipment includes devices like these toys and enables a successful prosecution to be taken if circumstances so dictate.

Belfast Telegraph


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