Children as young as seven are being targeted online in so called 'sextortion' scams.

A new report has highlighted how children as young as seven are being increasingly targeted by predators online, writes Ciara Phelan.

Also know as webcam blackmailing, sextortion is where a child is persuaded to share sexual information or images of themselves online and are then used to extort money or sexual favours.

The report released by Europol today goes on to suggest that these types of crimes are skyrocketing, but go largely unreported because victims are embarrassed by the images they're forced to provide.

Detective Superintendent in the Garda National Protective Service Bureau, with responsibility for the investigation of sexual crimes and crimes against children, Declan Daly, said this is a growing problem in Ireland.

"It is a crime that's happening in Ireland, it's a form of digital blackmail where children have given images to predators online are then blackmailed for then other sexual material for sexual favours or for money."

Earlier this year, a conference showed that children aged between 13-17 years feel that they should be better protected online and should receive better life skills education, including online safety.

The conference which was held by the ISPCC and Vodafone Ireland highlighted that teenagers feel that there should be better regulation of social network providers.

Young people unanimously agreed that there was a need for a National Cyber Safety Strategy and that the government should address this as a matter of urgency.

Speaking about the issue earlier this year, ISPCC CEO, Grainia Long said that it was clear that there was a need for a cyber safety strategy.

"Cyber safety is the child protection issue of our time and it is so important that we listen to young people and children on how this affects them and how, as a society, we should take on the issue. It is clear that a national children’s cyber safety strategy should be an urgent priority for government," she said.

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