- Mariella Frostrup urged parents to be aware of risky tablets and phones
- Electronic devices are must-have gifts for many children this Christmas
- Both of her children, aged eight and 10, have tablets of their own
- Presenter, 52, revealed she checks her children’s devices every night
- But Miss Frostrup said she feared the ‘predatory presence of paedophiles’
Mariella Frostrup has urged parents to be aware of the danger of online paedophiles when buying tablets or smartphones for Christmas
They are now must-have gifts for many children.
But Mariella Frostrup has urged parents to be aware of the danger of online paedophiles when buying electronic devices such as tablets or smartphones for Christmas as they provide youngsters with access to a risky ‘unknown universe’.
The presenter, 52, revealed her fears for her daughter Molly, 10, and son Danny, eight, as they begin using social media.
Despite their young age they both have tablet computers. And Miss Frostrup, who is married to their father, human rights lawyer Jason McCue, 43, said she has been left checking their devices every night, after hearing stories from her friends about their children being targeted on sites such as Instagram.
Miss Frostrup, who presents the Radio 4 programme Open Book, said: ‘I like to think of myself as a liberal, not driven to heights of hysteria by prevailing media headlines, but when it comes to the sexualisation of our children and the predatory presence of paedophiles I’m starting to feel the fear.
‘A friend emailed me the other night to say she’d deleted her daughter’s Instagram account after finding, among 70 or so school friends in a supposedly private stream, the profiles of three grown men who displayed disturbing enthusiasm for her photos of 10-year-olds.’
Earlier this year Miss Frostrup also learned of another friend’s teenage son’s ordeal after being targeted on YouTube. In the age of celebrity culture, some children seek to emulate their favourite stars by gaining thousands of online followers.
And Miss Frostrup said the teenager was left traumatised and needing therapy after being targeted by a predator who used the promise of more followers on the video sharing website to lure him in.
She said: ‘[He] found himself inundated with new friends on Facebook after posting a particularly “entertaining” video on a site recommended by his favourite YouTubers. These new friends assured him he had star potential and promised to quadruple his following if he met them on an unregulated site.
‘For kids who dream of the superstar status of YouTube sensations like the Jacksgap twins [sibling video bloggers who found fame with their channel about gap year travels], the quest for followers can be a dangerous obsession.
Warning: Miss Frostrup, 52, said she was beginning to fear the ‘predatory presence of paedophiles’ online
‘He befriended one in particular, a supposedly abused girl who wanted his help and began sending him pictures of her abuse. Pandora’s box flew open and an avalanche of pornography involving men and kids poured forth which he found deeply disturbing but was too embarrassed to tell anyone about.
‘In a matter of weeks he’d been enticed into hell and his new “friend” was revealed as an adult man. Luckily, he eventually broke down and told his mother. Several visits to the police station and many hours of counselling have returned her traumatised son to the happy-go-lucky, confident creature he once was.’
Miss Frostrup made her comments in her Waitrose Weekend column, becoming the latest in a number of high profile names to voice concerns about the safety of children online.
She said: ‘As we flock this festive season to purchase our kids their dream presents – tablets and smartphones, laptops and similar devices – I offer this as a salutary reminder that it’s not just in news stories that young people are being targeted and abused. We are buying our kids entry to an unknown universe and with “location access” switched on, a tracking device for strangers.’
Miss Frostrup she went on to say she had been compelled to check her children’s tablets every night for ‘visitors’ after hearing about the ordeals of fellow parents.
She said: ‘I like to think of myself as a liberal, not driven to heights of hysteria by prevailing media headlines, but when it comes to the sexualisation of our children and the predatory presence of paedophiles I’m starting to feel the fear.’
Earlier this month, Prime Minister David Cameron revealed a criminal offence of sexual communication with a child is to be created
Earlier this month, Prime Minister David Cameron revealed a criminal offence of sexual communication with a child is to be created – closing a staggering loophole in the law.
Paedophiles who currently solicit explicit pictures of children routinely escape punishment if it can’t be proved they have received an illegal image.
But the new law will allow police and prosecutors to pursue those who send text messages or ‘fish’ for victims online, irrespective of the outcome of their behaviour.
The new offence criminalises anyone over 18 years of age who communicates with a child under 16 if the communication is sexual or intended to elicit any sexual response.
Experts believe it could prevent interactions from escalating to more serious forms of criminality such as grooming or actual abuse.
And Miss Frostrup said she fears for the safety of children online, with the education system ill-equipped to teach children about the true dangers of the web.
Miss Frostrup said: ‘With sex education a luxury tag-on in most hard-pressed Ofsted-regimented schools, a generation of young people are being confronted with disturbing imagery they can’t process, predatory adults masquerading as their contemporaries and the continued objectification of girls and women (and increasingly young boys).
‘It’s on my mind every night when I check my children’s tablets for unwelcome visitors and wonder about the grave new world they are growing up in.’