44% rise in child sex offences involving the internet last year

Next government must make online safety a priority to protect children

Children tell our Childline service that they are being targeted online by some adults who pose as children and try to meet them.In the last 12 months, police have recorded an average of 15 child sex offences a day that involved the internet in England and Wales1.

These figures highlight a worrying trend in how offenders are using the internet to target children.

We're calling on the government to introduce strict online safety measures and make child online safety a priority.

Online child sex offences: the statistics

Recent figures show:

  • 5,653 child sex crimes committed against children in 2016/17 had an online element2
  • increase of 44% from 2015/163
  • 13 was the most common age of the targeted child (where recorded)
  • nearly 100 offences were committed against children 10 and under
  • the youngest child recorded was 3 years old.

What we're calling for

The next government must make child online safety a top priority. We're demanding:

  • an independent regulator to hold social media companies to account and fine them when they fail to protect children
  • minimum standards that internet companies must meet to safeguard children
  • safer social media accounts for children with default privacy settings.

We're also urging police forces to ensure all officers understand how people use the web to target children, how to investigate such crimes and safeguard the children involved.

Peter Wanless, chief executive for NSPCC, said:

Peter Wanless"These figures confirm our fears that offenders are exploiting the internet to target children for their own dark deeds.

"Children also tell our Childline service that they are being targeted online by some adults who pose as children and try to meet them, or persuade them to perfrom sexual acts on webcams, before blackmailing them. This terrifies them and can leave some feeling worthless, depressed and suicidal.

"We cannot sit idly by knowing that more and more innocent young people are being harmed online. Today's worrying data leaves the next government with no choice but to urgently address this issue. We are calling on them to force internet companies and social media sites to adhere to rules that keep their young users safe."

Ways to help keep children safe


  1. The NSPCC reported in June 2016 that 38 police forces in England and Wales had reported 3,186 sexual offences against under-18s were ‘cyber-flagged’. Following that release other forces returned the FOI results, which clarified that a total of 3,903 sexual offences against under-18s were ‘cyber-flagged’.

  2. The NSPCC sent the 43 police forces across England and Wales an FOI in April 2017 asking for the number of sexual offences against under-18 year-olds that had a cyber-flag attached to them between 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. A total of 39 police forces responded to the FOI and provided information on 5,653 offences. Not all police forces provided age breakdowns, some provided individual ages of victims, others provided broad age ranges, and some forces provided details of the offences. 

    Figures returned by police forces from England and Wales showed officers are recording an average of 15 internet-related sex crimes against children a day.