A WARNING has sounded about the online grooming of children during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Peter McCall, Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner, says parents should look out for signs during the lockdown as children spend more time online making them vulnerable to predators.

These criminals often use a fake profile, known as catfishing, or bribe young people with objects such as money, toys and electronics.

He said: “During lockdown everyone is spending more time indoors and online including criminals.

“Criminals are adapting with the changes in technology and using it to their advantage to enter homes and bank accounts without leaving the comfort of their home – we all need to be more vigilant about who and what we trust online.

“I would encourage parents to speak to their children and teenagers about online safety and to remind them to never speak to a stranger online.

“Online grooming is a very serious and real issue that the police deal with so it’s essential we all do our best to make sure our children are safe."

Detective Inspector Ian Harwood, from the constabulary, said: “It is important that parents and carers talk to children about staying safe online and encourage them to be open about what they are doing online.

“There are also settings on devices that can be utilised such as parent controls, but it’s important that they are aware of the dangers.

“One important area to take particular care with is the use of chat rooms and instant messaging. It is vital we help children to understand the importance of knowing that they should only chat with others they definitely know. Strangers met online may not be who they say they are."

Anyone with concerns ring 101 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.