ADVICE has been issued for parents whose children have been given interactive games or consoles for Christmas, providing parents and carers with information to help them prevent or spot the signs of online grooming.

Gareth Lougher, the police detective Inspector, responsible for vulnerability in Worcestershire, said: “It is vital that parents and guardians take an interest in the online life of their children in the same way they would in their ‘real world’ life such as when they play football outside or visit a friend.

“Parents and guardians can help simply by having a conversation with their children about social media, chat rooms, website and online gaming.

“By maintaining a non-confrontational and trusted relationship with your children, discussing who they are talking to online - finding out if they know them in real life and what they talk about.

“Take an active interest in the games your children play. Talk to them about what they like about the game and even play with them so that you can be more involved.

“Prevention is the key - if possible make their gaming profile private and use parent controls.

He continued: “Gaming is a type of social network – many have chat functions enabled. Tell your children to not respond to any messages from people they don’t know, especially those with links to external sites.

“If you think your child or a young person may have been groomed please report it to the police via 101, if you believe a child to be in immediate danger call 999.”

Warning signs for parents and guardians include children going missing from home or being defensive about their location and activities, often returning home late or staying out all night.