Children at greater risk of abuse online as schools close, charity warns

Support us and go ad-free

Content warning: this article discusses child grooming and child sexual abuse

Experts are preparing for a spike in public reports of child sexual abuse online as UK schools close during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is concerned children might be at greater risk of being groomed or coerced into making explicit content. Given that many will undoubtedly spend more time online while schools are closed, this puts them at greater risk.

“Ruthless predators”

IWF’s chief executive Susie Hargreaves said increasingly the children themselves are taking photos and videos. “Ruthless predators” target these children under false identities. She went on to say:

Heartbreakingly, we see more and more of this material being filmed by children themselves on devices, sometimes livestreamed from their own bedrooms in the family home…

My fear is that, with more young children being sent home from school, more of them will be spending a lot longer online, possibly exposing them to some of these criminals

“Unprecedented numbers”

IWF is responsible for finding and removing videos and images of children suffering sexual abuse from the internet. In 2019, it looked into a record of 260,400 reports, up from 229,328 the year before.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The charity says its hotline will continue to run while the pandemic forces other staff members to work from home. “We are bracing ourselves for a spike in reports,” Hargreaves said, going on to add:

The pandemic is forcing more and more people to stay indoors, and a lot of people are going to be spending much more time on the internet and at home on electronic devices.

More people alone in their homes, and more people spending longer online sadly means we are likely to see more people stumbling across criminal material involving child sexual abuse on the internet.

We are also expecting criminals to be more active on the internet during the coming months.

This could mean we’ll see an unprecedented number of public reports to our hotline as more people spot things that are not right and report it to us.

The charity urges parents to trust their children but have a frank conversation with them about the dangers.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us