The NSPCC bases its warning on calls to its own ChildLine, along with focus groups with young people. It says that these show ‘beyond doubt’ that internet net and mobile-based abuse from trolls and other predators is one of the major child protection issues facing society.
ChildLine carried out 3,745 counselling sessions last year to help youngsters distressed by messages or interactons via the internet or social media. Most were between 12 and 15 years-old. A further 250 contacts were from children who said they were being ‘groomed’ online. There was also a sharp increase in contacts about exposure to online pornography with 641 contacts representing a 70% increase for boys, with some callers as young as 11-years-old.
School and parent responsibilities
Whilst some schools are already providing lessons on these issues, the NSPCC believes it’s no longer a topic that can be left to chance and it’s something parents struggle to keep up with. ChildLine is visiting every primary school in the country to discuss these and other child protection issues in an age appropriate way.
Claire Lilley, safer technology lead at the NSPCC, said, ‘The internet and mobile phones are now part and parcel of young people’s everyday lives. This is the first generation who have never known a world without them. The benefits are huge, both socially and educationally, but so too are the dangers.”
‘Young people tell us they are experiencing all sorts of new forms of abuse on a scale never before seen. It’s now clear that we are facing an e-safety timebomb with this being one of the biggest child protection issues of our time.
‘We cannot put the genie back in the bottle but we can talk to our children about this issue. Parents, schools, technology companies, and young people themselves can all play their part.”