You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Cyber sex crimes against children have trebled in three years, NSPCC warns

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 11/02/2019 Charles Hymas
a close up of an open laptop computer sitting on top of a keyboard: Cyber sex crimes against children have trebled in three years, NSPCC warns © Artur Marciniec/Alamy Cyber sex crimes against children have trebled in three years, NSPCC warns

Cases of paedophiles using the internet to commit sex crimes against children have trebled in three years, figures show, prompting renewed demands for tougher regulation of social media companies.

The number of cyber sex offences against children increased to 9,543, according to the data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), up from 3,186.

However, the NSPCC said that the actual total was likely to be higher because of inconsistencies in the way the offences, which included rape, sexual assault and grooming, were recorded.

The role of social media has been revealed because police are now required to "cyber flag" any crime in which the internet played a part.

NSPCC research into grooming, based on freedom of information requests, found Facebookowned apps, which include Instagram and WhatsApp, accounted for half of the cases in a new offence of sexual communication with a child.

Peter Wanless, the NSPCC chief executive, 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 required to create safe accounts for children and take proactive steps to detect grooming."

The Telegraph is campaigning for a statutory duty of care to be imposed on social media firms to force them to do more to protect children.

According to the ONS, cyber-related crimes made up 16 per cent of child sexual offences recorded by police in England and Wales in the 12 months to September 2018.

The NSPCC cited the case of Lucie, who was aged 10 when she started chatting to a man, who claimed to be 21, on a music website. They began by talking about music but quickly moved on to conversations around sex.

Lucie said: "By the age of 12, I had exchanged nude photos and explicit messages with the man who had convinced me to do so in the name of 'love'." Soon after, she met the man in person and discovered he was in his late 30s.

Barnardo's, the children's charity, said it was now dealing with children as young as eight who had been sexually exploited.

Lax age verification on dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr is also putting children at risk, it has emerged. Documents released to The Sunday Times showed police had investigated more than 30 incidents of child rape since 2015 where victims evaded age checks.

One 13-year-old boy, who used Grindr, was claimed to have been raped or abused by at least 21 men.

Jeremy Wright, the Culture Secretary, said he would consider extending to dating sites new legislation that from April will require pornographic sites to use age verification technology.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Telegraph

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon