CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre, has stated that there has been a sizeable increase in reports of abuse from youngsters.
In the last year, CEOP has received 6,300 reports, which is an increase of 900 on the previous year, a more than 15% rise.
A quarter of those reports related to grooming, and another quarter to the possession and distribution of images. 8% involved actual contact and sexual abuse.
The increase in volume is largely down to a rise in industry reporting, from online moderators, website hosts and so forth.
Facebook added a CEOP panic button via an app back in July to help younger members report any inappropriate behaviour witnessed, and this – along with other sites which use it – is where the majority of reports from the public come from. Around 40% of the total volume of reports were made by the general public.
Jim Gamble, the Chief Executive of CEOP, commented: “One report sometimes enables us to identify hundreds of victims. The fact that a quarter of our reports relate to grooming – and in particular the 135 reports of children who were contacted by offenders attempting to meet them offline – highlight the importance of CEOP’s online safety programme, which has now reached more than 6 million children.”
The government is proposing to merge CEOP with the National Crime Agency, a move Mr Gamble has stringently protested by handing in his resignation (he will leave early in 2011). He argues that such a merger will diminish CEOP’s resources to the detriment of children across the country.