According to figures collected by the NSPCC thanks to Freedom of Information requests, 6,156 child sexual communication offenses were recorded in the last year, with data from 41 police forces showing an 84% increase since 2017/18 – with more than 27,000 crimes recorded since 2017.
Data showed that 82% of cases last year – when gender was known – were against girls, while Meta-owned platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were used in 38% of all cases where the platform was known.
Meanwhile, Snapchat was used in 33% of cases where a platform was registered.
The figures were released the day the government announced its intention to table an amendment to the Online security billwhich would give Ofcom more power as a regulator to demand that platforms do more to combat the spread of abusive material – including developing new technologies to find and combat it.
The NSPCC expressed support for these measures, but said he believed more could still be done to better protect children online.
He calls the Online security bill be further strengthened to compel tech companies to work together across platforms to combat ‘grooming’, as well as to do more to stop criminals organizing on social media to organize and lead each other towards abuse elsewhere – a process known as “breadcrumbs”.
NSPCC Chief executive Sir Peter Wanless said: “Online grooming is taking place at unprecedented levels and only concerted action will reverse the tide of this tsunami of preventable abuse.
“The crucial Online Safety Bill is an opportunity to deliver the legislative change we urgently need to tackle these preventable crimes against children head-on.
“We warmly welcome the government’s ambition to provide legislation. But as it seems increasingly clear that the pandemic has led to a long-term increase in the threat of abuse, current proposals must go further now to tackle online sexual violence and prevent preventable abuse.