Almost 40 per cent of Kiwi kids have contacted a stranger online but as this becomes increasingly common it creates an opportunity for the wrong sort of people, Netsafe says.

As well, the survey by the cyber-safety organisation found one in 10 children met up with a stranger they met online - and a quarter of those children reported feeling upset or didn't know how they felt after the meeting.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said while fortunately for most kids connecting with people online was a positive experience it could also create a false sense of security.

More than 2000 children between the ages of 9 and 17-years-old were surveyed. Of those who'd had a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online, 63 per cent said it was a happy experience, the survey found.

Advertisement

"Kids are growing up with the internet as just another part of life so they need to learn early on what they do online can have significant consequences," Cocker said.

Reports of grooming or exploitative relationships are on the rise according to Netsafe with perpetrators coming both from within New Zealand and overseas, which is especially hard as there's no jurisdiction to prosecute the offender.

Cocker said they've had reports of connections through many different platforms, including social media and gaming communications.

"Pretty much anywhere you'll find young people, you'll unfortunately find adults looking to exploit it."

Often these adults catfished their victim by pretending to be their age but Netsafe had seen cases where adults were completely honest about who they were to create a bond that they could then take advantage of.

Almost always, the end goal for the offender was to get the young person to send them sexual content, whether it's pictures or videos, but sometimes it was to meet them in person.

Cocker said this meant it was increasingly important for parents to talk to their children about what they got up to online - and what the possible consequences could be.

"Kids are growing up with the internet as just another part of life so they need to learn early on what they do online can have significant consequences."

Advertisement

He urged parents or young people who are concerned about a connection they've made online to contact Netsafe which would be able to help them with the next steps.

But if there's immediate danger, call 111.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael of the Covert Online Investigation Unit, said the police's school community officers hear about young people and the distribution of explicit images around once a week.

New technologies have provided easy platforms for offenders and said this was a significant issue that causes a lot of harm, he said.

"Often, one offender can be communicating with a number of people, so when police arrest offenders this can prevent further harm to dozens of young people and their families."

Michael said the most important thing parents and caregivers can do to help prevent their children becoming victims of online child exploitation is to speak to them and make them aware of the risks.

"Ensure your young people are aware that anything they post or send online is out in the world permanently, and can be widely distributed.

"Similarly, encourage them to never give away personal information online to people they don't know, or do or say anything that makes them feel uncomfortable."

The numbers

60% - never had contact with someone they didn't already know online
38% - have had contact with someone they didn't know online
2% - didn't want to answer

Of those who'd had contact with someone they didn't know online
9 -11 years - 23%
12 -14 years - 38%
15 - 17 years - 54%

Children who met up with someone they met online
88% - no
10% - yes
2% - didn't want to answer

Of the children who'd met up with someone online
63.4% - felt happy
25.2% - don't know
7.2% - upset
4.2% - didn't want to answer