The NSPCC is continuing its #WildWestWeb campaign calling for statutory regulation of social networks as it reveals that there has been a 50% increase in online grooming offences.
The national children’s charity has obtained new data after making a Freedom of Information request to every police force in England and Wales. It reveals that there has been a 50% increase in offences recorded in the last 6 months, when compared with the same period last year.
The figures also show that a total of 5,161 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded by police in just 18 months.
In addition, the data showed that there had been a massive 200% rise in recorded instances of the popular social network Instagram being used to target and abuse children over the same period of time.
It comes not long after data released by the Office for National Statistics showed that police had recorded more than 9,000 child sexual offences with an online element in the year from October 2017 to September 2018.
With the government due to publish their Online Harms Whitepaper, the NSPCC continues to urge ministers to introduce statutory regulation to enforce a legal duty of care to children on social networks. They want an independent regulator with the power to launch investigations and impose hefty fines on social networks that are failing to protect children.
The Chief Executive of the NSPCC, Peter Wanless, said that the new figures from police forces represented “overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks.”
He added: “We cannot wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are made to act. It is hugely concerning to see the sharp spike in grooming offences on Instagram, and it is vital that the platform designs basic protection more carefully into the service it offers young people.
“After 10 years of failed self-regulation by social networks, it is crucial that the Government’s imminent Online Harms Whitepaper includes new laws that tackle online grooming once and for all.”
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“We hope that steps are taken to offer young people greater protection when they are using social media platforms or other websites, and that more children are protected from abuse.”
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