Increase in cyber-related sex crimes against children reported in South Yorkshire

The internet is being used increasingly to target children
The internet is being used increasingly to target children
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Cyber-related sex crimes against South Yorkshire children have gone up by a third, new figures reveal.

The internet played a part in 311 sex crimes against South Yorkshire children over the last 12 months compared to 229 offences the year before.

Nationally, an average of 15 sexual offences against children per day were committed last year, according to figures released by the NSPCC.

The children's charity is now calling for the next government to make online safety a top priority.

It compiled figures from 39 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales and found that last year 5,653 child sex crimes committed against children as young as three had an online element.

The offences included rape, grooming and sexual assault.

Nationally, the number has risen by 44 per cent.

This is the second year police forces have been required to record - ‘cyber flag’ - any crime that involved the internet.

The NSPCC is calling for an independent regulator to hold social media companies to account and fine them where they fail to protect children

It wants the government to draw up a minimum standard that internet companies must meet to safeguard children.

The charity also wants children to be automatically offered safer social media accounts with default privacy settings, to protect them from harmful content and offenders who seek to prey on them.

The NSPCC is also urging police forces to ensure all officers understand how people use the web to prey on children, how to investigate such crimes and safeguard victims.

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive Officer of the NSPCC, said: “These figures confirm our fears that offenders are exploiting the internet to target children for their own dark deeds.

“Children also tell our Childline service that they are being targeted online by some adults who pose as children and try to meet them, or persuade them to perform sexual acts on webcams, before blackmailing them. This terrifies them and can leave some feeling worthless, depressed, and suicidal.

“We cannot idly sit by knowing that more and more innocent young people are being harmed online. Today’s worrying data leaves the next government with no choice but to urgently address this issue. We are calling on them to force internet companies and social media sites to adhere to rules that keep their young users safe.”