Over 5,000 online grooming offences recorded in 18 months

Our #WildWestWeb campaign calls for statutory regulation to make social networks safer.

Girl looking at mobile phone

New figures obtained by us from Freedom of Information requests to every police force in England and Wales reveal:

  • a total of 5,161 crimes of sexual communication with a child recorded in 18 months
  • almost a 50% increase in offence in offences recorded in latest six months compared to same period in previous year
  • a 200% rise in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children over the same time period1.

Ahead of the Government's Online Harms White Paper, we're urging ministers to tame the #WildWestWeb by bringing in statutory regulation to enforce a legal duty of care to children on social networks, backed by hefty fines if they fail.

Our #WildWestWeb campaign is calling for an independent regulator with the power to investigate and fine social networks if they fall short in protecting children.

Sign our petition 

Emily's story

Emily* was 13 when she was groomed online by a 24-year-old man. He had introduced himself and initially said he was 16, which quickly changed to 18. She told him she was 13. Later that evening he added her on Facebook and Snapchat.


*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

Peter Wanless

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC said:

“These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks.

“We cannot wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are made to act. It is hugely concerning to see the sharp spike in grooming offences on Instagram, and it is vital that the platform designs basic protection more carefully into the service it offers young people.

“After 10 years of failed self-regulation by social networks, it is crucial that the Government’s imminent Online Harms White Paper includes new laws that tackle online grooming once and for all."

Wild West Web: our campaign

We're calling on Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright to stand up for children and introduce tough regulation for social networks. We want:

  • an independent regulator who can put in place mandatory child safety rules for social networks
  • safe accounts for children
  • detailed reporting on how social networks are keeping children safe.

We need your help to ensure children are safe online. Sign our petition and help end the #WildWestWeb.

Sign the petition

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  1. 1. Freedom of Information requests
    All 43 police forces in England and Wales were asked for the number of recorded offences under s.15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 recorded between April 1st 2018 and September 30th 2018 covering a six-month period. The NSPCC also asked for information about the age and gender of the victim, and for the methods of communication used in connection with recorded offences. Data had previously been obtained for April 2017 to April 2018. Crimes sometimes go unreported or undetected, and therefore police-recorded offences will not fully reflect the scale of the issue. In total, 39 of 43 police forces gave a full or partial response for the most recent six-month period. Surrey, Sussex, Northampton and City of London police did not provide data for April 2018 to September 2018.