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.

One in five 8 to 11 year olds and seven in ten 12 to 15 year olds has a social media profile

Explanation: Based on 1,375 in-home interviews with parents and children aged 5-15, conducted from April-June 2016. Nearly 1/4 of children who go online aged 8-11 (26%) and nearly 3/4 who go online aged 12-15 (74%) have a social media profile. When calculated for all children (as opposed to just children who go online) 23% of 8-11s and 72% of 12-15s have a social media profile.

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.

There were over 12,000 counselling sessions with young people who talked to Childline about online issues last year

Explanation:12,328 counselling sessions with young people who contacted Childline for support and advice on online issues. This included online sexual abuse, online bullying and online safety.

See Indicator 9 in How safe are our children? 2017.

View trend graph Number of Childline counselling sessions about online safety and abuse (PNG).

1 in 3 children have been a victim of cyberbullying.

Explanation: Based on a poll of 11- to 17-year-olds undertaken by internet security firm McAfee. 35% reported that they have experienced cyberbullying – compared with 16% the previous year. Four in 10 said they had witnessed others being picked on online – almost double the 22% recorded the previous year. 

More than 7 in 10 parents have looked for or received information or advice about how to help their child manage online risks

Explanation: Based on 1,375 in-home interviews with parents and children aged 5-15, conducted from April-June 2016.

72% parents of children aged 5-15 have looked for or received information or advice from any source, and 55% have looked for or received it from the child's school. 33% say they have looked for or received information or advice from friends or family, 14% from internet service providers, 12% from the media and 11% 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 2,100 counselling sessions with young people who talked in Childline about online child sexual exploitation (CSE) in 2016/17 

Explanation: There were 2,132 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? 2017 and our summary of child protection register statistics in the UK (PDF).

In 2016, the Internet Watch Foundation identified over 57,000 URLs containing child sexual abuse images

Explanation: In 2016, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) identified and worked with partners to remove 57,335 URLs confirmed as hosting child sexual abuse images worldwide.

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