NSPCC Says Web Exposes Children To Sex Offences

The National Society for the Protection of Children from Cruelty (NSPCC) in Northern Ireland reveals an internet role in more child sex offences.

* There has been a staggering twenty-eight per cent rise in reported cyber-related sex crimes across Northern Ireland showing how offenders have increasingly exploited the web

* the NSPCC demands that the new NI Assembly and UK government  nationally prioritises online safety and introduces strict online measures to protect children.

* the Internet has shockingly played a role in contact offences including rape, sexual assault, and grooming.

That is the grim reality that faces our children who use the Internet unsupervised and untrained, particularly through using social media warns the NSPCC.

There has been a twenty-eight per cent increase in recorded online sex offences across Northern Ireland, NSPCC Northern Ireland has revealed today. The children’s charity obtained figures from the PSNI which show that there were 178 recorded sex offences with an online element recorded in 2016/17, up from 139 in 2015/16.

This is the second year PSNI has been required to record – or ‘cyber flag’ – any crime that involved the internet.

The troubling figures are revealed today as the NSPCC calls on the next UK Government and the new Northern Ireland Assembly to make child online safety a top priority. It is demanding that governments here and Westminster ensure:

* An independent regulator to hold social media companies to account and fine them where they fail to protect children.

* Minimum standards that internet companies must meet to safeguard children.

* Children are to be automatically offered safer social media accounts, with default privacy settings, to protect them from harmful content and offenders who seek to prey on them.

The NSPCC is also urging all UK police forces to ensure all officers understand how people use the web to prey on children, how to investigate such crimes, and effectively safeguard victims.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, who is visiting Belfast today, said: “These figures confirm our fears that offenders are exploiting the internet to target children for their own dark deeds.

“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.

“We cannot idly sit by knowing that more and more innocent young people are being harmed online. Today’s worrying data leaves the  Northern Ireland Assembly and the next UK 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.”


Some Examples of Comments From Children Reflecting Their Bad Internet Experiences

(All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person.)

1) There’s this guy sending me disgusting messages online. He started off being really nice and giving me loads of compliments but now all he talks about is how he wants me to do sexual things for him. I’ve seen a photo of him and he’s definitely a lot older than what he said he was so the whole situation is making me really uncomfortable. (Girl, 12)

2) I use this online site to talk to other people my age from around the world. Most of the time it’s fine but there’s an older man who has managed to get on there. He kept sending me disgusting messages so I blocked him but he keeps adding me from different accounts. It’s stressing me out and what he says to me is gross. I want to talk to my parents about it but I think they’d overreact and stop me from using the site so I don’t know what to do? (Girl, 13)

3) I was feeling really lonely so I decided to go into a chat room to talk to people. Straightaway I got loads of messages. It made me feel better about myself. After I built a bit of a relationship with some people, they started sending me rude pictures and asked me to do the same. A lot of them were older than me but they said everyone did it so I just agreed. I really regret it now though. It makes me feel so disgusting thinking about it. (Boy, 16-)

4) I feel like such an idiot for meeting up with a guy I met online. He was so nice to me and we’d been speaking for ages so I thought I could trust him, but everything he said was a lie. I thought he was a couple of years older than me, but he turned out to be twice my age. As soon as I saw him I knew I needed to get away but he wouldn’t let me. He forced me to have sex with him even though I was pleading with him not to make me. I feel so ashamed and sick thinking about it and I don’t know what to do. (Girl, 15).

5) I want to talk about something that happened to me a while ago but I’ve been too scared to tell anyone. After I broke up with my boyfriend I started talking to someone online. He helped get me through the break up and we got into an online relationship. When we were talking he convinced me to send pictures and do other things that I wasn’t comfortable with. I found out that he was actually an adult had lied about who he was the whole time. He’s now threatening to tell everyone that I’m gay and show them the pictures that I sent unless I keep talking to him and doing what he says. I’m too scared to tell anyone in case I get in trouble and I don’t think anything can be done about it now anyway. (Boy, 14)

6) I met a guy online a few years ago and we developed an online relationship. I sent him a video which was sexual and it showed my face and other parts of my body. When I met up with him he was a lot older than his photo. I didn’t like him at all, he was really forceful and creepy. He’s asked to meet up with me again and keeps talking about all the sexual things he wants to do to me. I don’t think it would be fair to just stop talking to him but I want the relationship to end. I’m scared about what he might do with the video if I ask to end it though. Maybe it would be clearer if I told him in person. I’ve not told anyone else about this, I feel to ashamed. (Boy, 16)

7) I’ve been playing this game online and use it to talk to my friends. Someone messaged me on there the other day, he said he was 11 and knew my friend from school. It seemed a bit weird because he sent me some pictures of himself but they looked like different people. I told him where I lived because I thought he knew my friend, but now I think he’s a lot older than he said. He’s asked me to send naked pictures to him and I said no, but now I’m scared that he’s going to come to where I live. (Girl, 10)

 8) I met someone online who said they were a similar age to me. We were chatting and he convinced me to go on webcam to him and undress. It turns out he’s older than he said he was and recorded the video. He’s now using it to blackmail me and says that if I don’t meet up with him he’ll post the video online. I’m so worried about letting my parents down and feel so ashamed about what I’ve done. (Girl, 17).