An average of one child per classroom in the North of England has received a naked or semi-naked image online from an adult, a new NSPCC survey has found.
And one in 50 schoolchildren sent a nude or semi-nude image to an adult, according to the largest ever UK survey of children’s experiences online.
The NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign is calling on Government to create an independent regulator for social networks, to force platforms to proactively detect groomers using their sites.
In a survey of nearly 40,000 children, the NSPCC asked young people aged seven to 16 about the risks they face when using the internet.
The first snapshot of the survey findings, Children Sending and Receiving Images, is published today and highlights the dangers children are exposed to.
Children were asked whether an adult had ever sent or shown them a naked or semi-naked picture or video on an app, site or game.
One girl aged 9-10, said: “A complete stranger asked me to take my clothes off and send him a picture… When I deleted the game, I went on another site and the same person asked me to have sex with him, I told him to ‘back off’ and then deleted that game. I have seen this person on many sites that I play, and I decided to just block him.”
Children said the problem was not limited to strangers contacting them, and some said they had been sent images by adults that they know.
A boy aged 14-15, said: “My coach sent me a video of Santa stripping naked.”
Others reported that the exchange of sexual images, often known as sexting, is becoming normalised, and one pupil aged 12-13, said: “A girl from my primary [was] sending half naked pictures because it’s what everyone does.”
It comes after NSPCC Freedom of Information requests revealed there had been more than 3,000 offences recorded in England and Wales within the first year of a new crime of Sexual Communication with a Child. Police in Cumbria recorded 31 offences.
Where police recorded what platforms were used by groomers; either Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat was used in 70 per cent of cases.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “Grooming can no longer be shrugged off as secondary to other online crimes. It is happening now, it is happening to very young children, it is happening so frequently that it’s becoming normalised, and it is not only coming from adult strangers, but also from known adults. Social networks have become a gateway for child abuse.
“The NSPCC has launched a petition calling on Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright and Home Secretary Sajid Javid to put an end to the Wild West Web. We need tough regulation of social networks to make sure there are fundamental protections for children in place whatever sites they’re using.”