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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 June 2007, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Webcam teen sex show warning
A computer screen
Watching online sex shows is illegal

The government's internet child protection agency has warned of an increasing number of teenagers being approached online to perform sex shows on webcams.

Five Live Report's Phil Kemp investigated two teenagers' experiences.

Nick was 16 when he set up a personal profile on Faceparty, a social networking website - something an estimated nine out of 10 teenagers now do.

It wasn't long before people he didn't know were getting in touch and asking him to go on his webcam.

"They said: 'I could pay you if you want.' I was like, 'OK, fair enough.' If there's a bit of money involved, there's a bit of incentive."

As with many other teenagers, Nick's computer and his webcam are in his bedroom.

These cameras that film you at your desk often come built-in with new computers or you can buy them separately for under 10.

'Camgirls'

By creating a profile on a popular website, Nick has become one of the growing number of "camgirls" and "camboys" offering webcam sex shows for money.

Nick remembers why he was tempted the first time someone suggested paying him.

"The Xbox 360 had just come out and games were about 50 quid.

"I was thinking, 'If I could do this on a regular basis, I could have a lot of games'."

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency (CEOP) says it has been receiving a growing number of reports of unsolicited requests to young people, asking them to perform sex shows.

CEOP's chief executive Jim Gamble describes it as a growing trend, although some of the cases now coming to light date back several years.

They can involve money paid via online transfer services such as Paypal, best known for its use on auction websites.

This would breach Paypal's terms and conditions but the company says it is unable to monitor every transaction that is made.

At risk

But CEOP warns that children without a bank account or other means of being paid money online are also at risk.

"They're being engaged with the offer of credits for other areas in gaming sites, in particular, to commit sexual acts on webcam," says Mr Gamble.

On these websites, credits can be bought with real money and it's these that CEOP says are being used to coax young people into turning on their webcams.

I quit college because the money was so good... I would have about 10 to 15 a day, which would be about 100 to 150
Sarah

Sarah also created a profile on the Faceparty website when she was 16.

She started offering cam shows when she saw other girls doing the same in the website's chatroom.

"I quit college because the money was so good. I would have about 10 to 15 a day, which would be about 100 to 150."

Sarah says even when she was 16, people paying for her shows would ask to meet her in person for sex.

She says she always refused.

Mr Gamble warns that paying for webcam sex shows with children under the age of 18, even without physical contact, is just as illegal as child prostitution.

Any prosecution could result in a lengthy jail sentence.

"It's no different in the virtual world. If you become involved in this type of activity, there will be a consequence. You're damaging and harming a child," says Gamble.

'Degrading'

CEOP also warns that teenagers are themselves risking prosecution by publishing indecent material of someone aged under 18.

Sarah's now 20 and she regrets having given up her studies for the money she was making with her webcam.

"If I could go back, I wouldn't have ever started doing it. You look back on it and it's quite degrading."

Five Live Report: Webcam is on Sunday 17 June at 1100 BST.


SEE ALSO
Cautions for 8,000 sex offenders
11 Jun 07 |  England
Online child abuse complaints up
17 Apr 07 |  Technology

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