Instagram biggest for child grooming online

Sex offenders are grooming children on Instagram more than on any other online platform, a charity has found.

Police in England and Wales recorded 1,944 incidents of sexual communication with children in the six months to September 2018, the NSPCC said.

Instagram was used in 32% of the 1,317 cases where a method was recorded, Facebook in 23% and Snapchat in 14%.

Instagram and Facebook said they "aggressively" fought grooming, while Snapchat said it was "unacceptable".

Following pressure from campaigners, sexual communication with a child became an offence in April 2017.

In the 18 months that followed, more than 5,000 online grooming offences were recorded by police, according to thedata gathered by the NSPCC.

How can I keep my kids safe online?  

The charity said said the figures did not "fully reflect the scale of the issue", as many crimes went undetected or unreported.

Where the police logged age and gender, seven out of 10 victims were girls aged 12 to 15. One in five was aged 11 or under. The youngest victim was five years old.

The NSPCC said 39 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales responded to Freedom of Information requests, with only Surrey, Sussex, Northampton and City of London police failing to provide data.

The children's charity is calling for new laws to force social media firms to do more to protect children.

'We exchanged texts which quickly became sexual'

In one case of abuse given by the charity, a girl was groomed by a 24-year-old man when she was 13.

Emily - not her real name - met the man through a friend. He had introduced himself, saying he was 16, which quickly changed to 18. She told him she was 13. Later that evening he added her on Facebook and Snapchat.

Emily said: "It escalated very quickly from there. We exchanged texts which quickly became sexual, then photos and videos before arranging for him to come and pick me up after school.

"He drove me somewhere quiet… and took me into the woods and had sex with me. He drove me in the direction of home straight afterwards, refusing to even talk, and then kicked me out of the car at the traffic lights.

"I was bleeding and crying. This was my first sexual experience."

Emily's mother said: "We felt as though we had failed as parents - we knew about these social media sites, we thought we were doing everything we could to ensure our children's safety when they were online, but we still couldn't protect Emily."


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