The NSPCC has today published a campaign designed to help educate children and young to spot the signs of online abuse and grooming.
Statistics from Childline, a service provided by the charity, show that counselling sessions for young people worried about online sexual abuse have increased by 24%.
- 65% involved 12 to 15-year-olds
- 28% involved 16 to 18-year-olds
- 7% involved 11-year-olds and younger
- Almost two thirds of counselling sessions regarding online abuse were girls
The online abuse category covers issues including grooming, sexual harassment and communications, pressure to engage in or view explicit material online and sexual extortion. One in eight of the counselling sessions in 2015/16 were related specifically to grooming which is an increase of 21%.
The internet is increasingly being used as a gateway by offenders to commit crimes including sexual assaults, sexual exploitation and grooming. To tackle this issue, Childline is today launching a new campaign, #ListenToYourSelfie which is aimed at helping young people recognise the signs of grooming and unhealthy relationships, both online and offline.
Funded by BBC Children in Need, the campaign features two films where selfies come to life and question a situation. “The Game” focuses on a same-sex online grooming scenario and “The Party” highlights peer-to-peer sexual pressure and grooming.
The Kent Education Safeguarding Adviser (Online Protection) would strongly recommend that schools and colleges share these resources with young people as well as staff and parents/carers to raise awareness of online safety. Schools and colleges may find these resources useful as a teaching resource within the PSHE curriculum to help stimulate age appropriate and credible discussions with young people to help them to identify the signs of grooming and consider healthy and unhealthy relationships, both online and offline.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “Most of us talk to people online and it’s a great way to stay connected and make new friends. But there are dangers. Young people may not understand what is right or wrong in a relationship, or what to do if something makes them feel uncomfortable, online or offline. #ListenToYourSelfie is aimed at helping young people recognise signs of being manipulated, controlled or exploited so they feel empowered to make their own decisions or choices. We hope that by putting this in the spotlight we can help young people to feel able to speak up if they feel worried or scared about a situation or relationship.”
Childline founder, Esther Rantzen said: “The internet has brought many positive changes, for instance, most of Childline’s contacts from children and young people are now online. But it has also brought dangers, and online grooming is a real risk. Very often young people tell us of their feelings of shame because they don’t recognise that they are not to blame. One young person who had been persuaded to send explicit pictures of herself told us ‘I walked myself into this mess, I couldn’t ask for help’. It can be very hard for young people to identify that they are being manipulated or exploited, or to recognise that something is not right. We want children and young people to know that Childline is there for them, whatever their worry, to answer any questions and offer support and advice.”