10-year-old Daniel was excited and looking forward to getting his first laptop…
His Mum and Dad had already told him that he was too young for a mobile phone but with Christmas approaching he had his hopes set on a laptop all of his own, all of his friends at school were talking about a cool new game they were playing online and Daniel couldn’t wait to join them.
Christmas day came and Daniel could hardly contain himself when he opened a brand new laptop. Mum and Dad tried to help him get it set up but they didn’t really know much about computers and the internet, Daniel felt confident that he could set it up enough to download the game he was desperate to play, he ignored all the personal safety and privacy settings, he just wanted to get on with the game.
Most of the school holiday was spent on the game, some days his mum had to shout to make him come down from his room – he didn’t want to ‘get some fresh air” he just wanted to play with his mates online, in fact he was making new friends without even needing to go out and make an effort.
One of Daniels newest friends was called Billy, Billy was 14 and liked the same online games as Daniel, although, he told Daniel “I’m not as good a player as you are”, he told Daniel that to get to the next levels he used cheats and if Daniel wanted to get higher scores than his school mates he would be happy to share some with him.
Billy sent over an invite to a chat site so that they could share cheats and Daniels mates wouldn’t find out he was cheating.
Billy said that cheats came at a price and asked Daniel if he was willing to do a dare to win a cheat – all Daniel could think about was getting onto new levels and beating his school mates so he didn’t think twice about agreeing to a dare.
Billy asked Daniel to turn his webcam on so that he could see that Daniel was actually doing the dare and not just pretending and then he dared him to take off his shirt and jeans, Daniel thought it was a laugh and asked if Billy was going to do dares too, Billy agreed but his webcam was broken at the moment to Daniel would just have to trust him that he had done it.
Billy asked Daniel to undress completely and asked him if he would like to see some rude pictures, the boys had a laugh at some photos of naked men that Billy shared through the chat.
Over the next 3 weeks Daniel started to get more and more friend requests form lads playing online, he could not believe how many friends he had made since he had his laptop and really liked all the attention.
Daniel felt popular and important.
Many of his new friends chatted to him in private about all sorts of things, often asking him to take his clothes off, telling him he was good looking and getting him to do things to himself – sexual things!
Daniel didn’t understand the dangers and risks of what he was doing, it all felt like a laugh.
Although Daniels Mum and Dad thought that being on the laptop every evening and all weekend was not great for a growing lad they didn’t mind, it kept him happy and busy and it very soon felt like a normal part of their family life, they could barely remember a time before the computer.
Then late one night Mum was in bed when she heard Daniel talking, cross that he had not settled down she went to his room to remind him it was school in the morning and he would struggle to get up if he did not get to sleep now, when she opened his door she could see he was talking to someone on his laptop with his headset on, she could also see a photograph of a naked man on the screen.
Once the initial shock had passed Daniels Mum closed the laptop and took it from Daniel.
The next morning the police were informed.
It turned out that these new friends, including Billy weren’t boys at all but grown men from all over the world, all pretending to be boys so that they could make friends and get photographs of boys doing sexual things.
Daniel and his parents are now being supported by a local service that specialises in helping children, young people and their families recover from the emotional and physical impact of grooming and child sexual exploitation.