Police recorded more than 9,000 child sexual offences with an online element, new figures from the Office of National Statistics have found.
The statistics showed that over 9,000 child sexual offences had an online element in England and Wales between October 2017 and September 2018. The NSPCC is urging Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright to stand up for children and introduce tough regulation for social networks.
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC 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 forced to create safe accounts for children and take proactive steps to detect grooming so this behaviour can be disrupted before it escalates," he added.
The figures show that child sex crimes with an online element made up 16% of the total number of recorded child sexual offences. Rape, sexual assault and grooming are included in the online crimes committed against children.
NSPCC warns that the new figures may not show the true extent of the problem, due to the under-reporting and under-recording of child sexual offences, and the involvement of online in them.
The NSPCC's campaign #WildWestWeb is calling for an independent regulator with the power to investigate and fine social networks if they fall short in protecting children.
Specifically, the campaign is urging Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright to introduce:
- An independent regulator who can put in place mandatory child safety rules for social networks
- Safe accounts for children
- Detailed reporting on how social networks are keeping children safe.
“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," Peter Wanless concluded.