Northern Ireland news

Police warn parents after child 'sent explicit messages on an app'

Digital staff

Police have issued a warning to parents after an eight-year-old girl was sent "explicit messages" via an app's private messaging service.

The Movie Star Planet app is designed for children aged eight to 15 and allows users to contact each other in chat rooms and privately.

The PSNI in east Belfast were alerted by a woman whose young daughter told her she had received messages including an inquiry about where she lived.

The app lets children create a "virtual movie star which is used in movies, chat rooms and games", according to the Movie Star Planet website.

Posting on the PSNI East Belfast Facebook page an officer wrote: "The app is for 8-15 year olds and has a private messaging service. This service appears to be being utilised by individuals who are sending explicit messages to young people and asking where they live."

The post continued: "Thanks to the quick thinking of an eight-year-old girl who went straight to her mum we have been made aware and are investigating."

The message has been shared more than 15,000 times.

Sergeant Austin Grant told the Irish News that police are investigating "the origin of this app and are following a definite line of enquiry".

“We have issued a warning about this app on social media and would advise parents to talk to their children about the benefits and dangers of the internet and social media - so that they can empower them to use both safely.

“Tell them that if they receive any inappropriate images, links or messages that it is important not to forward them to anyone else – but to contact a trusted adult immediately so they can report it to police. By doing this they could help prevent further such incidents."

He asked that anyone with information contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 1046 of 21/4/17.”

According to the app's website, Movie Star Planet "aims to provide children aged between 8 and 15 years with a safe, secure and fun social networking platform".

"MovieStarPlanet provides a safe framework - we monitor the site, and we encourage all users to report inappropriate behaviour, offensive language, and abusive or unsuitable content.

"We provide users with a safety information area in the community, which informs users about the live moderators monitoring the site and the basic safety rules to help them help themselves. The vast majority of users do in fact play by the rules and are kind to each other; this is why MovieStarPlanet is a fun and safe place to be.

"All moderators are trained in internet safety for our target group (children aged between 8 and 15 years). They work on the site every day and know what is going on among the users. If a new trend or usage appears, steps are immediately taken to address the issue, and if no known solution exist, we create one."


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