THE BLOG

We All Have Our Part to Play in Keeping Our Children Safe From Abuse on the Internet

23/07/2015 14:50 BST | Updated 23/07/2016 10:59 BST

It's two years since the Prime Minister urged industry to 'obliterate' child abuse images from the internet and make the web a safer place for children.

But, as our snapshot today shows, sadly it is still far too easy to access, download, and share these images.

The Prime Minister made a bold attempt to tackle this problem head-on, promising law enforcement agencies more powers and challenging search engines to stamp it out.

As a result positive steps have been taken; images are being seized and offenders convicted of these horrendous crimes.

However, the scale of the problem is proving to be massive. The 1,000 cases we looked at - from a sample of 100 criminal cases - revealed that police seized a staggering 4.5m images. One in three of those caught held positions of trust, or had roles that allowed them access to children.

The number of cases reaching court are just a fraction of the overall level of offending with police estimating that around 50,000 people in the UK are thought to be making and sharing the shocking images.

So, what do we do about this problem that's blighting our society?

One of the major challenges facing police forces is that as technology advances offenders are inventing new ways to commit crimes. We heard cases about offenders live streaming abuse or grooming children through social networks under fake identities.

We want all UK forces to step up to the challenge of tackling the vast amount of online offending taking place. But they need support. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) recently published a report into how the UK's police forces deal with the online sexual exploitation of children. Over half of the case files they looked at (52%) were judged to be inadequate or needing improvement. These are 20th Century tactics for a 21st Century crime.

We want proper training and resources for officers, ensuring as many victims and offenders can be identified as possible when these crimes are being investigated. Latest technology can help. The new Child Abuse Image Database will enable quicker identification of images and victims. It's not the whole solution but it's a very positive step.

We also want offenders to get the message that this is not a victimless crime. Offenders should stop convincing themselves that there is no harm in 'just looking'. In every image there is a child who has been the victim of sexual abuse, and every time an adult looks at an image they risk desensitising themselves to that child's horrific experiences. Just by looking, they increase the demand for more children to be abused, more children to endure this terrible crime.

They also run the very real risk that when caught they stand to lose everything - their liberty, job, home and even family.

These figures can feel overwhelming but parents must not feel powerless in the face of them. We all have a part to play in keeping our children safe and there are a variety of things that parents can do to help protect their children.

At the NSPCC we're encouraging parents and young people to be 'Share Aware.' That includes checking privacy settings and making sure your child knows how to block someone and report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Those online aren't always who they say they are so remind your child to be careful of who they accept or add as a friend.

Keeping our children safe from this torrent of vile images and bringing those involved to justice is a massive task that requires work at all levels. We owe it to children everywhere to make sure that they are able to experience all that is wonderful about the internet, safe from abuse.