Over 9,000 police-recorded online child sexual abuse offences

Our #WildWestWeb campaign calls for Government to create a robust law to make social networks safer.

Young person looking at phoneNew figures from the Office of National Statistics show that police recorded thousands of incidents of the internet being used to commit child sexual offences in the past year.

In England and Wales, between October 2017 and September 2018:

  • police recorded more than 9,000 child sexual offences with an online element
  • child sex crimes with an online element made up 16% of the total number of recorded child sexual offences
  • rape, sexual assault and grooming are included in the online crimes committed against children.1

The new figures may not show the true extent of the problem, due to the under-reporting and under-recording of child sexual offences, and the involvement of online in them.

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 

Lucie's story

Lucie* was 10 years old when she started chatting to Jason*, who claimed to be 21, on a website for people with similar music tastes.

Lucie met Jason in person and discovered he was actually in his late 30s. This is when the online grooming moved to sexual abuse.


*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC said:

Peter Wanless

“It is time social networks were made to take responsibility and stopped allowing their platforms to be used as gateways for these devastating crimes.

“Sites must be forced to create safe accounts for children and take proactive steps to detect grooming so this behaviour can be disrupted before it escalates.

“We urge the public to sign our petition calling on Government to introduce an independent regulator which has the power to fine social networks that fail in their duty in protecting children and young people from abuse."

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. Figures published today by the Office for National statistics. In April 2015, it became mandatory for all forces to return quarterly information on the number of crimes flagged as being committed online (in full or in part). Work is still ongoing with forces to improve the quality of the data submitted in this collection. There are some large variations in the proportion of offences flagged by each force depending on crime type and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the flag is currently widely underused.