Online abuse Facts and statistics

We don’t know how many children and young people are affected by online abuse. Children often:

  • don’t tell anyone because they feel ashamed or guilty
  • may not know who to tell
  • may not realise they are being abused.

Almost 1 in of 8 to 11-year-olds and 3 in 4 of 12 to 15-year-olds has a social media profile

Explanation: Based on 1,388 in-home interviews with parents and children aged 5-15, conducted from April-June 2016. 23% of 8-11s and 74% of 12-15s have a profile on a social media or messaging site or app.

1 in 3 internet users are children

Explanation: Although it is not currently possible to calculate the precise proportion of internet users that are children, Livingstone et al's estimate takes in to account the following factors:

  • under-18s comprise 1/3 of the world's population
  • while children make up only 1/5 of the population in developed countries, growth in the online population is now greatest in developing countries, where children comprise between 1/3 and 1/2 of the population
  • across countries for which internet use data is available, the average percentage of 0- to 15-year-olds online is similar to the percentage of 25- to 74-year-olds online. While infants are less likely to be internet users, young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to be online than older people.

1 in 4 children have experienced something upsetting on a social networking site.

Explanation: 28% of children aged 11-16 (23% of children aged 11-12) who have a profile on a social networking site, had experienced something upsetting on it in the last year.

Based on a survey of 1,024 young people aged 11-16 across the UK who had a social networking profile.

Children experienced a wide range of upsetting things. The most common upsetting experience was ‘trolling’ (defined as ‘unkind comments or rumours circulated online’). However, a significant minority had received sexual messages, been encouraged to self-harm, or subjected to language which was violent or aggressive.

Around 1 in 8 young people have been bullied on social media

Explanation: Based on 1,388 in-home interviews with parents and children aged 5-15, conducted from April-June 2017. 

Around 1 in 8 8-11-year-olds (12%) and 1 in 5 12-15-year-olds (20%) who opted to answer the question said they had ever personally experienced some form of bullying. 1 in 8 12-15s said they had been bullied on social media (12%); this was lower for 8-11s (1%).

3 in 4 parents have looked for or received information or advice about how to help their child manage online risks

Explanation: Based on 1,388 in-home interviews with parents and children aged 5-15, conducted from April-June 2017.

78% parents of children aged 5-15 have looked for or received information or advice from any source, and 61% have looked for or received it from the child's school. 34% say they have looked for or received information or advice from friends or family, 15% from the media, 14% from internet service providers, 13% from other websites with information about how to stay safe online and 13% from the child themselves.

Almost 1 in 4 young people have come across racist or hate messages online.

Explanation: During Spring/Summer 2010, 1,032 children aged 9-16 years old who use the internet were interviewed in the UK. A follow up interview with a further 516 children aged 9-16 took place in 2013.

Due to the sensitive nature of the nature of the websites, only children aged 11 and older were asked if they had seen instances of potentially harmful user-generated content (UGC).

In 2010, 13% of these children reported exposure to hate messages. This had risen to 23% by 2013.

There were over 2,200 counselling sessions with young people who talked in Childline about online sexual abuse online in 2017/18 

Explanation: There were 2,218 counselling sessions with young people who specifically talked about online child sexual exploitation , which includes online grooming, online sexual harrassment and engaging in sexually explicit activity online, in 2016/17. This was a 44% increase on the previous year.

See Indicator 9 in How safe are our children? 2018 and our summary of child protection register statistics in the UK (PDF).

In 2017, the Internet Watch Foundation identified over 78,000 URLs containing child sexual abuse images

Explanation: In 2017, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) identified and worked with partners to remove 78,589 URLs confirmed as hosting child sexual abuse images worldwide.

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