A Limavady dad has spoken out to warn parents about online grooming after he says one of his children was targeted.
The man, who prefers not to be named, said he believed he was taking sensible safety measures and as part of an agreement with his children he checks their Facebook accounts and emails monthly.
On Sunday, he said he knew something was wrong with his young daughter.
“I had that gut instinct that something wasn’t right, so I did an in-depth search and went through messages in both accounts,” he said, explaining he found private messages to one of his children requesting graphic photos. He said the person sending the messages threatened to stop talking to his daughter if pictures weren’t sent.
“I could feel the colour drain from me,” said the parent. He said police are investigating, and said he believes the contact had started in early January.
“Then the anger set in and I started thinking of the worst case scenario. Since Sunday it has been eating away at me and I have been thinking ‘what more could I have done?’ I’m just glad I found out when I did.
“I want parents to be aware,” he said. “I thought I was being safe enough. I want parents to be aware what this is about. No matter how unhappy your kids might be, check their emails and their Facebook accounts. They might fall out with you for a couple of days, but once you explain to them the dangers that can exist online, they will understand.
“Look out for any signs that your kids are withdrawn, or are being a bit more secretive than usual with their accounts or phones.”
The man added: “You have to be extra vigilant because while social media has its pros there are also cons, which is this. It is every parent’s worst nightmare.”
Limavady Mayor, Alan Robinson issued an alert on his Facebook page on Thursday after the man contacted him.
Mayor Robinson said: “He says that the matter’s now in the hands of the police being investigated”, adding: “He’s pleaded with me to alert other parents to the dangers posed online asking that their child’s activity is heavily monitored. Solid advice.”