CHILD sex offenders are increasingly exploiting the web with latest stats showing 9,543 crimes recorded in the last year.
As the Office for National Statistics publishes this figure today, the NSPCC demands the Government introduces a robust new law for social networks without delay.
Rape, sexual assault and grooming are included in the crimes committed against children where the offender has contacted their victim on the internet.
The cyber-related crimes made up 16% of the total number of child sexual offences recorded by police in England and Wales, between September 2017 and September last year1.
The NSPCC fears that this may not reveal the true extent of the problem due to wide variation and under-recording of the role of online in these crimes.
The charity’s #WildWestWeb campaign is calling for an independent regulator with the power to investigate and fine social networks if they fall short in protecting children.
Just this week, in a report about online abuse experienced by people with disabilities, MPs on the Petitions Committee said the Government must accept that self-regulation of social media had failed.
And at the end of last year, in a report about the future of policing, the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended the regulation of internet companies.
Lucie* was 10 years old when she started chatting to Jason*, who claimed to be 21, on a website for people with similar music tastes. They began by chatting about music but this very quickly moved on to talking about sex.
Lucie* said: “By the age of 12, I had exchanged nude photos and explicit messages with the man who had convinced me to do so in the name of ‘love’.”
Soon after this Lucie* met Jason* in person and discovered he was actually in his late 30s. This is when the online grooming and abuse moved to contact sexual abuse.
She said: “I couldn’t get away from him. I didn’t want to be involved with him anymore but he would always blackmail me. He would make it seem like I was the one doing something wrong. The sexual abuse lasted three years. It impacts everything in your life.”
Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: “It is time social networks were made to take responsibility and stopped allowing their platforms to be used as gateways for these devastating crimes.
“Sites must be required to create safe accounts for children and take proactive steps to detect grooming so this behaviour can be disrupted before it escalates.
“We urge the public to sign our petition calling on Government to introduce an independent regulator which has the power to fine social networks that fail in their duty in protecting children and young people from abuse.”
Please support NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign by signing the petition now: http://bit.ly/2BTX0Bm