Northern Ireland news

Rise in children being targeted by sex offenders online

The NSPCC has revealed that around five cyber-enabled sex crimes were recorded each week against children in Northern Ireland

CHILDREN are increasingly being targeted online by sex offenders, according to new figures.

The NSPCC has revealed that around five cyber-enabled sex crimes were recorded each week against children in Northern Ireland.

A total of 243 recorded sexual offences against children in 2018/19 had an online element compared to 66 offences in 2014/15.

However, the NSPCC warned that the figures might not reveal the true extent of the problem due to "potential under-recording" and the way in which such crimes are recorded.

Across the UK, 40 of 44 police forces provided the NSPCC with data on cyber-related sex crimes against under 18s including online grooming, sexual communication with a child and rape. 

For offences where the age was recorded, 13 was the most common age of the victim. There were 164 offences committed against children aged ten and under, including babies, across the UK.

The NSPCC has called on the next Prime Minister to prioritise online safety.

Neil Anderson, head of NSPCC Northern Ireland, said: "Behind each offence is a vulnerable child suffering at the hands of sex offenders and, worryingly, we know these figures are the tip of the iceberg."

"Thousands of children are drowning in a sea of online threats so it's now time for the next Prime Minister, whoever he may be, to cast out the life jacket," he said.

"He must hold his nerve and introduce an independent regulator to protect children from the risks of abuse and harmful content."

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