Internet Watch Foundation data shows online groomers are targeting children of primary school age
Parents are being urged to talk to their young children about internet safety as a new report shows a big rise in the number of 7-10 year olds being groomed online.
A study of images found on the internet showed how abusers are now targeting children of primary school age as access to technology opens up.
The Internet Watch Foundation says in 2022 they saw a 60% increase in the number of images which included children aged 7-10 years old.
Worrying number of images featuring young children online
They warn as ever-younger children become more tech-aware and active online, they become more vulnerable to grooming and abuse by strangers – even in their own bedrooms.
The data also found:
- More sexual abuse images of children aged 11-13 than of any other age group
- 70% of 7-10 year old abuse images were “self generated” ie the abuser was not in the same room
- While the number of boys appearing in abuse images more than doubled, around 96% of total images are of girls
Advice to keep your children safe
Internet Safety Expert Jess Chalmers aka #SocialJess says the findings are deeply worrying, but there are steps parents can take to make sure their child stays safe online.
Speaking to Hits Radio she said: “We can’t expect our children to be handed a device and know how to behave, in the same way we taught our children to cross the road.
“We’ve got to guide our children in the same way when they take their first steps online.”
Advice includes talking openly about online activities and experiences, good and bad, as well as teaching children what to do if they feel like something is wrong in an online space.
Jess said: “Whether they’re on a kindle, a tablet, a smartphone, teach them how to take a screenshot of what someone is doing so if someone ever does send them something or asks for something that seems weird, they can take a screenshot of that and show it to a trusted adult.
“Wherever there’s a chat feature, a predator could be there, its not just on social media, they can be on gaming platforms too so show your children how to block and report on every game and app they’re on.”
Groomers targeting children on different platforms
Jess says groomers are often hiding in plain sight in online spaces and will often persuade children to move to encrypted chat channels, so their conversations can’t be traced.
“Only 5% of groomers pretend to be children online, and the other 95% are adults and children are basically getting controlled by these people.”
Find out more about the Internet Watch Foundation report
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