Cost of living crisis sparks fears of surge in online child exploitation this summer | UK news

Young people could be at greater risk of online exploitation as families struggle to afford outings and activities such as holiday clubs this summer, children’s charities have warned.

NSPCC said living cost Never let a crisis feel like Coronavirus pandemic, while Barnardo warned: “What started in the virtual world can quickly move to in-person sexual and criminal exploitation.”

Barnardo’s said its survey of 1,191 parents and carers across the UK showed that almost half (46%) would struggle to find money for family holidays and days away.

A quarter (26%) say they cannot afford to pay for activities such as childcare and vacation clubs, and a fifth (21%) say they cannot afford to spend time with their children.

In a survey of 729 11- to 17-year-olds, 71 percent said they would spend more time online during the holidays than during term time, and 8 percent said they would meet people they met online this summer.

About 13 percent said they had communicated with someone they met online but didn’t know.

The charity’s chief executive, Lynn Perry, said that while any child could be at risk of exploitation, some children were particularly so when families could not afford organized and supervised activities.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen new forms of exploitation – increasing numbers of children being groomed, recruited and exploited through social media, chat rooms and gaming platforms,” ​​she said.

“While all children, regardless of age, location or background, are vulnerable to sexual and criminal exploitation, and many families struggle to afford basic living expenses, let alone activities for their children during the holidays, some children are particularly at risk this summer, ’ she added.

“We know that exploitation can change lives and often leave children traumatized and alone.”

Jesse Edwards, the charity’s senior policy adviser for child harm, said: “Children do not have a responsibility to determine whether there is exploitation in their lives.

“Families can watch for physical signs such as unexplained injuries or infections, mood changes, mental health issues, behavioral changes, showing more sexual activity, physical discomfort, or when you don’t know how they got possession of items like money or valuables. bought them.”

The question is as a government Online Safety Act Pass parliament.

Proposed laws – designed to regulate internet content to help keep users safe and hold companies accountable for material – have repeatedly been stalled over concerns about their impact on free speech.

read more:
Why the Online Safety Act is so controversial
Bereaved parents whose child committed suicide demand change

Rani Govender, Senior Child Safety Online Policy Officer at the NSPCC, said: “Criminals are relentlessly exploiting the conditions created by the pandemic to target young people spending more time online, and we cannot allow the cost of living crisis to fuel another form of abuse. The wave surged.”

She added: “It is vital that the long-awaited Safe Online Bill is as effective as possible in protecting children and that senior technology managers are held personally accountable if their sites continue to facilitate child sexual abuse at record levels. “

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Meanwhile, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) referred to its previous research that found an increase in child sexual abuse material containing images and videos made or shared via internet devices with cameras last year compared to 2021 9% – and point to these scenes where a child is groomed, bullied and encouraged online.

IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said: “Parents must understand the dangers involved and have an open and honest discussion with their children. Even a good, quality conversation can help prevent this type of abuse Behavior continues.”

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