Children’s charity reports rise in cases of online sexual abuse
A leading children’s charity has reported a “staggering” rise in cases of online sexual abuse.
Childline, which is operated by the NSPCC, carried out more than 2,800 counselling sessions with youngsters who were being groomed over the internet.
This represents an increase of 168% between 2012 and 2013.
Almost 20% of all counselling sessions were directed through Childline’s bases in Aberdeen and Glasgow.
Joseph Lumbasi, a development worker with the charity Izzy’s Promise, told The Courier it was a difficult subject for children to discuss openly.
He added: “They come to us because they don’t feel their school knows how to deal with it and they don’t want to tell their parents in case they have their computers or phones taken away and are prevented from using the internet. They also don’t want to be put in a situation where they could come face-to-face with their abuser.”
Mr Lumbasi revealed the charity was working to help young people protect themselves online.
“We try to help them build some resilience and develop coping mechanisms,” he said.
“We provide them with a confidential service, whether that is giving them reassurance or helping them to protect themselves online.
“If something happens online that makes them feel unsafe, they know they can come to us.
“They need to be able to talk to people they can trust to help them deal with that kind of situation.”
Childline has adopted a similar approach to encourage young people to talk about their online activities.
Elaine Chalmers, area manager for the service in Scotland, said children often do not report abuse because they don’t realise that what they are experiencing is illegal.
She added: “Social networks are an easy place to hide your real identity and can be the first step in offenders encouraging potential victims to other sites, or even to meet in person.
“It’s vital that we encourage children and young people to talk about what they do online and who they communicate with.”
Anyone with concerns about online safety can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or Izzy’s Promise on 01382 206222.