As CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation, I am privileged I to run one of the most successful hotlines for reporting online child sexual abuse imagery in the world. However, that doesn't mean we are complacent. We know we are battling a massive problem and we are constantly looking for ways to reach those people who are most likely to stumble on child sexual abuse to encourage them to report it to us, knowing that not only can they do this anonymously, but that they are also doing the right thing.
Our analysts spend their days, either taking reports from the public on suspected images of children being sexually abused, or actively searching for these hideous images.
For our team of analysts, reports from the public are vital. Every single time someone, somewhere, stumbles on this type of illegal image and then reports to us, we have the chance to take that image down from the internet. In short, we can make the internet a safer place and more importantly we can prevent the victims from suffering further torment.
The hotline's core goal is to identify, grade and remove this imagery. But, it also provides us with invaluable data on the trends, the numbers and the nature of reports.
Reporting is totally anonymous. But, for some years we've been increasingly concerned that there was one particular group of people, less likely to 'report' this hideous online material to us.
Young men seem to be the group less likely to report online child sexual abuse imagery to us, if they do stumble on it. It's something that troubles me and I've always felt that I wanted to do more. The problem was reaching this young male audience.
So, nearly a year ago, I began a programme targeting young men. And, it soon became clear that accessing them through 'football' - the nation's favourite game - could provide a key to educating and influencing them.
The IWF forms one third of the UK Safer Internet Centre, which provides the perfect base for this educational project. After some research and discussion, we found an extremely willing and enthusiastic partner in Everton Football Club. The club have incredibly strong community links and were keen to investigate the possibility of creating a workshop model for internet safety.
Everton's Head of Safeguarding, Adam Green, seized the opportunity to work with us on this footballing first and with the help of Andy Wood, our newly appointed Project Manager we got to work.
From the beginning, we realised the need for guidance from the key players in internet safety and safeguarding. So, we created an Advisory Board to provide strategic direction and leadership. Members include: John Carr, an International renowned child online protection expert (Chair); UK Safer Internet Centre partners (Childnet, IWF, SWGfL); ComRes; NCA/CEOP; Home Office; NSPCC; Brook; Liverpool School Improvement Service; Safeguarding and PR leads at Everton Football Club and Andy Wood (Project Manager).
Today, the workshops are up and running throughout Everton Football Club's communities. The goal of the project, if I can use that pun, is to educate young men to understand what healthy/appropriate relationships look like and then apply this learning to keeping safe online. Andy, who runs the workshops aided by the Everton Safeguarding Team, is not only an e-safety expert trainer, but also a Football Coach, so he's been able to make an immediate connection with all the young men participating.
You can read more about the football project workshops and find out about our forthcoming campaign 'See it, Report it' which is due to be launched on April 15, at our website www.iwf.org.uk