Cobbled together from BBC and other media news items


Hundreds of British children are being blackmailed into performing sex acts online, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre  (CEOP) has warned.

Abusers posing online as children talk victims into sexual acts or sharing of images, then threaten to send pictures to the child's family and friends.

CEOP said in 12 cases over two years, 424 children had been blackmailed in this way - 184 of them in the UK.  Deputy chief executive Andy Baker said the abuse "escalates really quickly". He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it could take as little as four minutes "to go from, 'Hi, do you want to get naked?', to self-harming".

Seven victims have killed themselves, including a 17-year-old in the UK. Another seven seriously self-harmed, of whom six were from the UK.

Sophie Thorne from Swindon, began experiencing cyber-bullying last year over the internet and via text messaging. 

The bullying - which started at school - continued to follow Sophie through to her college in Swindon. The regular abuse lowered Sophie's self-esteem so much that she self-harmed. 

Thanks to support from her family and the school and college, action is now being taken against the bullies. However, Sophie wants to continue to raise awareness of this 'faceless' type of crime. 

In order to raise awareness of the issue, Sophie is making an animated film to be screened across Swindon in order to make people aware of cyberbullying

You can find out more about what young people like Sophie are doing at the beat bullying website  Another  very useful internet resource is

Mr Baker said: "We're talking about a very small dark percentage of [the internet] and this is what we need to police".

Daniel Perry, from Dunfermline, Fife, took his own life in the summer after blackmailers demanded thousands of pounds having tricked him into thinking he was chatting with a US girl.

He was told that his video conversations would be spread among friends and family unless he paid cash. Other victims have been told their activities would be shared unless they performed more extreme acts.

Of all the recent developments involving the internet this is one of the most disturbing.

The stories pop up on Carol Todd's computer with distressing regularity.

They are tales with an eerily similar template that chronicle the suicides of young people who often had endured the torment of prolonged and relentless online bullying.

In ways, they are much like the story of her own daughter Amanda, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student who took her life a year ago following months of harassment at school and online over images posted on the Internet of her body.

One of the threads tying their deaths together is a cause-and-effect link made by the media, politicians and parents between persistent bullying and the victim's decision to end their life -- a phenomenon that generated its own buzzword -- "bullycide."

Read more:

From Canada comes the story of a member of the Nova Scotia legislature who says she was cyberbullied by a group of people over the past two weeks after someone posted a topless image of her online.Lenore Zann said image was taken from an episode in the U.S. cable TV series The L Word, in which she played a small part in a prison shower scene in 2008.

When the image was tweeted to her on Nov. 29, she asked the sender to remove the image, which she said included a message that said, "What happened to the old Lenore?"  But the sender refused and the online conversation soon included others who retweeted the image and hurled insults at her, Zann said.

"I never signed on for having that image used for another purpose," she said in an interview.  "I signed a contract... for my image only to be used in The L Word show. It's not just the image of the picture that was disturbing. It was the way that these people... suddenly targeted me. It increased in velocity and intent. It was constant and it was harassing."

The perpetrators are usually calculating, computer-savvy men aged between 20 and 44; some act alone, others as part of an organised network. Their motives are more than just sexual - they want control, and in some cases money.

The victims are girls and boys, unwittingly drawn into the paedophiles' net by the possibility of friendship or consensual sexual contact.  Adolescents are particularly vulnerable as it's natural for them to explore their emerging sexuality or engage in risky behaviour - but few can imagine the dangers that their innocent internet chat may lead to.

As well as catching the offenders, investigators say children and parents must be made aware of the risks. In the 12 cases highlighted by CEOP, the abusers came from four continents and in five cases the criminals were based in the UK. Children as young as eight had been forced to perform "slave-like acts", said Mr Baker. As well as the performance of sex acts, the abuse sometimes involved being forced to self-harm and there had been a few attempts to extort money.

Experts highlighted the accessibility of the English language and foreign abusers' perceptions about the liberal nature of UK society as reasons for the targeting of British children. Mr Baker said thousands of British children could have been approached in attempts to instigate abuse. While only a handful of children will respond, thousands are exposed to the risk, he said.

CEOP operations manager Stephanie McCourt said: "First of all it's the English language. They are able to threaten the children if they can communicate to them. English is a really popular universal language. "Second of all, the offenders have actually said that because they perceive the UK as a very free and open and liberal society, they think that they will have more success in targeting UK children."

The biggest case, known as Operation K, involved 322 children around the world being blackmailed, including 96 in the UK. The victims were mainly boys aged 11 to 15, who were targeted by a gang from a non-European country. The suspects are due to stand trial in the coming weeks.

The gang used more than 40 fake online profiles and more than 40 different email addresses to carry out their abuse. The network of abuse was exposed after a social networking site noticed suspicious activity and a British child told their parents. Set up in 2006 in affiliation with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, CEOP is a police agency dedicated to protecting children from sexual abuse. Ceop said warning signs that a child was being subjected to online abuse could include them becoming aggressive and withdrawn, as well as self-harming.

But in Daniel Perry's case it appears there were no warning signs. 

His mother told reporters after his death: "He was a happy laddie, not depressed and the last type of person you would think would take their life... We're a very close family and I just wished he had come to me and said something."

The apprentice mechanic had been having online conversations with someone he believed to be a girl around his own age.

Just before his death, he was warned by the blackmailers that he would be better off dead if he did not transfer the cash. Less than an hour after replying to the message, he fell from the Forth Road Bridge.

Take a look at CEOP's useful self-help site:  or find them on Facebook

Finally, we were delighted in July 2018 to learn that our archived material from so many years ago is still being reached and read and found to be useful, when a request was received from Katherine Clarke as follows:

Could you make a small update for me?

Iím working on a national safety project to help put a stop to cyber bullying.

Dr. Keenan has created this guide on How to Deal with Cyberbullying & Substance Abuse:

Would you mind sharing it perhaps on your page.

Doctors Keenan and Cohen felt there wasn't a great guide out there and I'm tasked with promoting it so ....


Katherine Clarke
Media Relations
Patient Advocacy Group