Child sex offences involving the internet up by 44%

Child sex offences involving the internet up by 44%

Posted on Aug 04, 2017

Child sex offences involving the internet up by 44%



The NSPCC are calling for the government to make online safety for children a top priority after the release of recent figures.

Police have recorded in 2016/17 an average of 15 child sex offences a day that involved the internet in England and Wales. This is 44% higher than in 2015/16.

This suggests a concerning trend in the way offenders are grooming children.


The figures show:

  • 5,653 child sex crimes committed against children in 2016/17 had an online element 
  • 13 was the most common age of the targeted child (where recorded)
  • the youngest child recorded was just 3 years old.


Peter Wanless, chief executive for NSPCC, said


"These figures confirm our fears that offenders are exploiting the Internet to target children for their own dark deeds.”


Children can be groomed in a number of different ways, both online and offline but online grooming is becoming increasingly more common.


"We cannot sit idly by knowing that more and more innocent young people are being harmed online. [This] worrying data leaves the next government with no choice but to urgently address this issue. We are calling on them to force internet companies and social media sites to adhere to rules that keep their young users safe."


The NSPCC are calling for:

  • an independent regulator to hold social media companies to account and fine them when they fail to protect children
  • minimum standards that internet companies must meet to safeguard children
  • safer social media accounts for children with default privacy settings.


Wanless has said "Children also tell our Childline service that they are being targeted online by some adults who pose as children and try to meet them, or persuade them to perform sexual acts on webcams, before blackmailing them. This terrifies them and can leave some feeling worthless, depressed and suicidal.”

This is not uncommon in cases of child sexual exploitation. The ultimate goal of the grooming process is to break down the child’s defences and get them into a position in which they can be controlled.

Grooming can happen both online or offline, and can involve violence, threats, or blackmail. It can take days, weeks, months or years.

The internet is a powerful tool for perpetrators of CSE. It allows them to remain anonymous, or allows them to pretend to be someone they aren’t. It’s very easy for perpetrators to lie about their age, gender and appearance. This means that the perpetrator can present as more of an equal, making it easier to gain a young person’s trust. Perpetrators will not always lie about their identity, and may instead try to make the young person feel more mature by befriending them.

The internet is a good resource for young people, and can help to educate young people who are curious about sex. Perpetrators exploit this curiosity.

The goal of online grooming can be to get the young person to take part in sexual activities online, eg by performing on webcam or sending nude photos. Perpetrators may also groom young people online in order to meet them offline.


Why do young people go along with it?

People are often surprised when they hear about CSE, especially when they hear that the young people involved appear to be consenting.

But this is because a big part of grooming is making the young person believe that the situation is normal and that nothing is wrong with what they are doing.

They also make the young person believe that if they spoke out about it, they would not be believed.

This is all part of the grooming process – the powerful and dangerous process that perpetrators go through to get what they want.


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