Perverts are prompting children to perform sex acts live on webcam – and then blackmailing them to do more with threats that their naked pictures will be revealed to family or friends.
Child abusers, known as paedophiles, are targeting youngsters in South Holland and across the UK and turning them into “slaves”.
Abusers often pretend to be kids – with some grown men hiding behind the fake identities of little girls – and befriend youngsters online before asking them to expose parts of their body on camera.
The exploitation then escalates, with children blackmailed to perform more sex acts on camera, write degrading statements on their body or even cut themselves.
Youngsters fooled by online abusers have been desperate enough to try to kill themselves.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) says six UK children have attempted suicide – and one 17-year-old committed suicide.
Det Insp Simon Lovett, who heads the Lincolnshire Police Internet Child Abuse Team (ICAT), is warning families with young children not to think of the county as a rural backwater because online abusers are active here.
“It is in Lincolnshire and there will be cases we know about – or ongoing investigations – in the Spalding area,” he said.
Often the first step is for an abuser to trick their young victims by pretending to be around the same age, chit-chat about shared interests such as pop bands and school, before turning the conversation to more personal things.
Once a child has exposed a part of their body on the webcam – or performed a sex act – they start to feel trapped.
Det Insp Lovett said: “Children can become trapped in this cycle and they can almost become slaves to these people because they have to do their bidding. As Home Secretary Theresa May said a child can be at greater risk sitting in their bedroom on their computer than they are outside the school gates.”