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Image by BP Miller
  • Writer's pictureSafe and Sound Group

Rise In Online Grooming Is a Concern For Us All

Latest research reveals that more than 2,600 online grooming crimes have been recorded by police in the East Midlands in the six years since sexual communication with a child was officially recognised as a criminal offence.

That means that literally hundreds of children and young people have been contacted by perpetrators online; blackmailed into sharing indecent photographs of themselves; have been sent horrific images and pornography and, in some cases, have been coerced into meeting up with the perpetrators and subjected to life-changing emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

These figures are likely to be only the tip of the iceberg with many more young people too afraid or ashamed to ask for help – petrified that their abuser will mete out the retribution they have threatened or fearful that they will not be believed and somehow be blamed for what has happened.

Most people think that online grooming takes place on traditional social media channels but researchers have identified 150 different apps, games and websites being used to target children.

Between April 2022 and March 2023, Safe and Sound supported 346 children and young people and, in the vast majority of cases, the grooming and abuse started online.

Online grooming has therefore had a devastating effect on the lives of too many young people and their wider families and we need to do all we can to protect them.

Organisations such as ourselves who are committed to protecting and supporting children and young people who are at risk or are victims of child exploitation have long been calling for the swift passage of the Online Safety Bill which has slowed since the draft was first published more than two years ago.

The legislation will mean that tech companies have a legal duty of care for young users and put safeguards in place to protect children online with stronger regulation by Ofcom.

We hope that the Online Safety Bill will become law this Autumn but, in the meantime, I appeal to families to be far more vigilant about the dangers online for young people.

Please set the highest possible privacy settings on their social media, gaming and search engine apps and channels.

Most of us would question a young person as they leave the home about where they are going and who they are meeting.  It’s the same for online activity. Have open and honest discussions about who they are talking to online and that not everybody is who they seem.

Tracy Harrison - CEO, Safe and Sound Group



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