The Herald

Charity’s safety call after rise in online sex abuse


A SHARP increase in calls to a helpline about online sexual abuse has sparked an appeal for parents to discuss internet safety with children receiving smartphone­s, games consoles and tablet computers this Christmas.

The NSPCC said there were 3,716 ChildLine counsellin­g sessions about the issue in 2015/16 – a 24 per cent rise on the 2,994 the previous year.

Over the past three years, the number of contacts to ChildLine about online sexual abuse has surged by 250 per cent.

The category can include grooming, child sexual exploitati­on, sexting, being made to perform sex acts on webcam, meeting in person, and viewing distressin­g sexually explicit content.

Some children contacted ChildLine because they felt trapped by their situation, felt guilty and ashamed, were being blackmaile­d, or were considerin­g meeting in person.

A 14-year-old girl told the service: “I met this guy through social media and he was really nice. He told me I was beautiful. He asked me for some topless photos which I didn’t think was a big deal, so I sent him a few.

“Now he’s threatenin­g to post them online if I don’t send him more. I’m worried and embarrasse­d and I don’t know what to do.”

The NSPCC said it is vital parents talk to their children about being safe online.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the charity, said: “The web can be a great place for young people to socialise, explore their interests, and learn, but every parent buying an internet device should be aware there are also risks and think about installing parental controls.”

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