A LEADING children's charity has offered its support after a Mail article revealed a concerning increase in the amount of children being sexually exploited in Barrow.

Helen Westerman, Head of Safeguarding in Communities for NSPCC, has urged parents to take key steps to prevent paedophiles exploiting their children via social media.

This follows what Caroline Walker, Parkside GGI Academy headteacher, observed as a two-year rise in the number of children being sexually exploited in Furness.

Mrs Walker was first to speak out about her concerns, which were centred around how individuals and gangs were targetting boys and girls as young as eight in Barrow and how they were using social media to do it.

In response Helen Westerman from NSPCC said: "Yesterday’s piece in The Mail looking at the increase in adults approaching children via apps and social media is, sadly, a familiar story to those of us who work so closely in keeping children safe online.

"Too often parents are forced to act in reaction to their child being approached online by an adult, or when their child has already been exposed to inappropriate pictures, comments and communications online. Our main piece of advice is not to wait for something negative to happen in your child’s online world.

"The first step can be to set up effective parental controls, by making sure that you both know what information is being shared online. This can be a child’s full name, age and email address, but strangers may also be able to access information like where they go to school.

"It is always important that any app your child has access to is set to private, and that they can control what others see, and keep track of their contacts lists.

"But getting the technological controls right will only do so much – it’s equally important to have regular conversations about what your child is doing online."

For more information, call the NSPCC and O2 advice line on 0808 800 5002 or visit www.netaware.org.uk. If any child needs advice contact Childline on 0800 11 11.