As the virtual world becomes increasingly part of everyday life, it is no surprise that there are people who are exploiting it to commit crimes, causing deep anguish and distress. Even more so with the government lockdown due to the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic. With children off of school, predatory paedophiles have access to them more than ever before.
The explosive accessibility of the virtual world in recent times makes image based sexual abuse increasingly prevalent.
A shortage of moderators who combat sexual abuse online combined with children spending more time on the internet at home has created a “perfect storm” for abusers to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the UK’s biggest safeguarding charities the NSPCC has warned.
The closure of schools and nurseries has led to children spending much of their day online, including time spent on educational activity, contact with friends and entertainment, but the NSPCC warned that it could increase the risk of sexual abuse.
The charity said tech firms have had to scale back on the number of moderators tackling sexual abuse, giving offenders an “unprecedented opportunity” to target children who are spending more time online and are increasingly lonely or anxious because of the lockdown. Over half of young people who spoke to Childline recently about coronavirus were counselled for their mental and emotional health around issues like isolation, arguments at home and removal of professional support from schools and the NHS.
The warning from the NSPCC comes after Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union, said it had seen “increased online activity by those seeking child abuse material”. Recently, Europol’s executive director, Catherine de Bolle, told Politico that the agency had detected an increase in paedophile activity. “We have huge figures of people abusing child material online,” she said. “We receive different information from the member states that there is an increased online activity by paedophiles seeking exploitation material.
Social media outlets make easy platforms for exploitation, whether it be in the form of:
- ‘revenge porn’
- ‘fake porn’
- videos of sexual assaults
- paedophile activity
Keeping your child safe online
Most children spend a considerable part of their day in the virtual world using social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest to name but a few. Whilst these apps are mostly used innocently for socialising or educational purposes there are predators who will use them to contact, groom and exploit children. It is important that caregivers involve themselves and learn about the virtual world so that they are equipped to help children to stay safe online.
There are many ways of keeping your child safe.
Here are some ways of doing this:
- Make sure your child knows that they should not meet anyone they have met online.
- Communicate - talk about staying safe online.
- Use privacy settings and controls.
- If necessary, set house rules.
- Be aware of the sites/apps being used.
- Encourage children to speak out if they have a problem.
- Think about the information you post.
What to do if you discover your child has been targeted on line
If your child becomes the victim of grooming, you should report the matter to the police immediately, who can prosecute the offender and hopefully bring him to justice. If they get convicted, consideration should be given to a possible civil compensation claim if the perpetrator has assets. This firm has experience in pursuing on line abusers in the civil courts, securing substantial compensation for victims of on line grooming and sexual based online images.
Emmott Snell Solicitors would like to recognise and highlight the invaluable work of children’s charities and organisations who continue to work tirelessly to help and support children and young people particularly in these challenging times.