IMAGE: 1 in 3 internet users are children

The UK’s leading children’s charity, the NSPCC, claims the number of people, including children and young adults, targeted for abuse on social media platforms has increased with Instagram said to be the main grooming App.

IMAGE: Paedophiles are increasingly using social media to groom children and young adults
Research done by the charity covered an 18-month period to September last year, during which there were more than 5,000 recorded crimes “of sexual communication with a child,” and “a 200% rise in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children”.
Online grooming is the process by which a person prepares a child or a young adult for sexual abuse. This is specifically after gaining access to the child, getting their compliance and their promise of secrecy.
While grooming is most associated with child sexual abuse, it is also possible for adults, especially vulnerable adults, to be groomed – or prepared – for abuse.

 One of the key results of grooming is that the survivor is left carrying the shame of the events.
pHIL BANYARD, pSYCHOLOGIST

The nature of online grooming is changing with most interactions occurring online and involving younger victims. This change is seeing people taking more risks by virtually opening their door to strangers.

The sexual abuse of children is usually carefully planned and stage-managed. In the
process of grooming, the perpetrator creates the conditions which will allow him or her to
abuse the children while remaining undetected by others, and the child is prepared
gradually for the time when the offender first engages in sexual molestation.

Audio: Paul Banyard, psychologist

The national figures show the recorded use of Instagram has risen dramatically over the 18-month period. From April 2017 to September 2017, where the communication method was recorded, Instagram was used by groomers in 126 instances, whereas between April 2018 and September 2018 it was recorded 428 times – more than a 200 per cent increase.
New figures obtained by the NSPCC from Freedom of Information requests to every police force in England and Wales reveal:
  • a total of 5,161 crimes of sexual communication with a child recorded in 18 months
  • almost a 50% increase in offence in offences recorded in latest six months compared to same period in previous year
  • a 200% rise in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children over the same time period.

The charity has an ongoing campaign, #WildWestWeb, calling for statutory regulation of social media.