Online child abusers "one click away from losing everything".
26 March 2018, 07:22 | Updated: 26 March 2018, 07:27
A hard-hitting campaign targeting perpetrators of online child sexual abuse is being launched by police warning they are "just one click away from losing everything".
Almost a quarter (23%) of registered sex offenders carried out online sexual abuse of children, according to a snapshot taken by Police Scotland this month.
Officers said anecdotal evidence suggests there has been an increase in such crimes which include live streaming of abuse, possession and sharing of indecent images of children, grooming for sexual purposes and online or webcam sexual extortion.
The new campaign, being launched on Tuesday, aims to make it clear to perpetrators that their actions will have life-changing consequences for them and their families.
It also contains a message from children under the hashtag #NotMyFriend and aims to encourage youngsters to be sceptical as those who groom or manipulate them often pretend to be the child's friend at the start.
Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald said: "We want to speak directly to perpetrators to make it clear that with the click of a mouse, they risk losing everything.
"Any form of online child sexual abuse is a serious criminal offence.
"The internet does not provide anonymity - there is no hiding place."
Children who feature in the campaign images state: "Thinking of sexually abusing children like me online? You're one click away from losing everything."
The campaign highlights opportunities for perpetrators or those concerned about their sexual thoughts regarding children to seek help.
Police Scotland is working with Stop It Now! - an online child sexual abuse prevention organisation which manages a confidential helpline designed to help adults with such concerns and can be contacted on 0131 556 3535.
Ms MacDonald stressed that online abuse is not a victimless crime and that child victims, from infants to teenagers, are suffering around the world.
She said: "Every single image shared of child sexual abuse has come from a child somewhere in the world that's been abused to obtain that image, so it is in no way a victimless crime
"I see the sharing of images as being absolutely as serious as the abuse itself."
One perpetrator who viewed indecent images, speaking anonymously, urged people to seek help before they commit any crime.
He said: "A couple of days before my birthday, at around eight in the morning, the result of not reaching out for help came to visit me in the clothes of the Police Scotland cyber crime team.
"My life changed completely in an instant.
"I wish I had made that change for myself, I wish I had seen not just the harm that these images had done to the very real people in them or the very real harm they were doing to me personally, but also the harm to relationships with family and friends."
The campaign, which features social media messages and online advertising posters, launches on Tuesday.
Police said support for children is also available through Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) command and other support organisations.
Anyone worried about online abuse can contact Police Scotland on 101 or www.ceop.police.uk or 999 in an emergency.