22 cyber-related sex crimes against children  recorded on average a day

We're calling on the next Prime Minister prioritise online safety and bring in laws that deliver a change in protection against abuse

Girl with mobile phoneFigures show children are being targeted online by sex offenders – with an average of 22 crimes a day taking place online in 2018/191.

  • 40 out of 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland provided us with data on cyber-related sex crimes against under 18s in 2018/19 including online grooming, sexual communication with a child and rape2.
  • 8,224 child sexual offences logged by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had an online element.
  • The number of crimes has doubled since since 2015/16, the first year the NSPCC collected this data, up from 4,042 offences3

This news comes ahead of our annual flagship conference How safe are our children? Growing up online 2.0 which begins today and explores the potential risks the online world poses to children and young people. The conference also marks the launch of our annual report, How safe are our children?.


"I am seriously struggling. I was sent a friend request by a woman in her 20s and later she video-called me and made me do sexual things. She later showed me a video of what happened and threatened to report me for masturbating if I didn't talk to her. I feel so ashamed about what has happened and I'm too scared to tell anyone."
Boy, 14

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:

"Worryingly, we know these figures are the tip of the iceberg.

"Far too many children are drowning in a sea of online threats so it's now time for the next Prime Minister, whoever he may be, to cast out the life jacket.

"He must hold his nerve and introduce an independent regulator to protect children from the risks of abuse and harmful content."

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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*DISCLAIMER

All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person.


References

  1. 1. The online crimeflag does not apply to police forces in Scotland. 

    There was wide variation across the country in the numbers of offences that were cyber-flagged with some forces recording hundreds of crimes while others had fewer than 20.  

    There was variation in which forces have responded each year. 

    The NSPCC has retrieved data through an FOI request each year since it became mandatory to record whether an offence had an internet element in England and Wales in 2015. Due to differences in the offences covered by the NSPCC's request and some police forces not responding to the FOI, these figures do not match those published by the ONS.

  2. 2. The NSPCC sent the 44 police forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland an FOI in March 2019 asking for the number of sexual offences against under 18 year olds that had an online crime flag attached to them between 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018 and 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019. A total of 41 forces responded to the FOI and provided information on 7,069 offences in 2017/18 and 40 police forces responded and provided information on 8,224 offences in 2018/19.

  3. 3. There was a 16% increase from 2017/18 when 7,069 offences were recorded, a 28% increase from 2016/17 when 6,411 offences were recorded and a 103% increase from 2015/16 when 4,042 offences were recorded.