‘Appalling’ rise of ‘devious’ criminals tricking children into sexually abusing themselves on camera

Published:  Mon 31 May 2021

‘Appalling’ new data shows online content of children being tricked into sexually abusing themselves on camera for predators has more than doubled in the first few months of the year.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the UK charity responsible for finding and removing images and videos of child sexual abuse from the internet.

New figures released today (May 31) show “self-generated” content of child sexual abuse has skyrocketed at the start of 2021.

Self-generated content can include child sexual abuse content which has been created using webcams, very often in the child’s own room, and then shared online.

In some cases, children are groomed, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves.

Some of these videos contain Category A material – the most severe level of abuse which includes penetrative sexual activity.

The new data shows:

  • From January to  April 2021, just over 38,000 reports the IWF actioned included “self-generated” content
  • This compares to the same period in 2020 when about 17,500 reports included self-generated content.
  • This is a 117% increase for this period from 2020 to 2021.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “We are appalled by these numbers. We know the abuse these children suffer is real, and there should be no doubt that this has become a grave and widespread threat.

“Predators are extremely devious, and have worked out that they do not need to physically contact a child to inflict long-lasting harm and abuse on them. They can now, in just a few clicks, reach children at home through their devices and speak to them in their own bedrooms.

“Parents need to be aware of these realities we are seeing, and children must be empowered to call out these criminal adults who are inciting them into abusing themselves online. This is why we are campaigning to try to warn about the tactics being deployed by these offenders.” 

Last month (April) The IWF launched a hard-hitting new campaign warning teenage girls and their parents about the dangers of being groomed online by sexual predators.

The campaign, backed by the UK Home Office and Microsoft, has two main branches. The ‘Gurls out loud’ campaign aims to prevent teenage girls from falling victim to grooming techniques, and the ‘Home Truths’ campaign warning parents about how predators are seeking to groom and coerce children online.

The campaign warns parents about the dangers of grooming online

Parents are encouraged to T.A.L.K to their children about the dangers.

  • Talk to your child about online sexual abuse. Start the conversation – and listen to their concerns.
  • Agree ground rules about the way you use technology as a family.
  • Learn about the platforms and apps your child loves. Take an interest in their online life.
  • Know how to use tools, apps and settings that can help to keep your child safe online.
  • Discuss and agree on privacy settings for the platforms and apps your child uses, and on more general settings for the family.

Find out more about the campaigns at: www.gurlsoutloud.com and https://talk.iwf.org.uk

A further breakdown of the IWF’s findings in 2020 can be found at https://annualreport2020.iwf.org.uk

Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en

 The public is given this advice when making a report:

  • Do report images and videos of child sexual abuse to the IWF to be removed. Reports to the IWF are anonymous.
  • Do provide the exact URL where child sexual abuse images are located.
  • Don’t report other harmful content – you can find details of other agencies to report to on the IWF’s website.
  • Do report to the police if you are concerned about a child’s welfare,
  • Do report only once for each web address – or URL. Repeat reporting of the same URL isn’t needed and wastes analysts’ time.
  • Do report non-photographic visual depictions of the sexual abuse of children, such as computer-generated images. Anything of this nature, which is also hosted in the UK, the IWF can get removed.
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