Online Abuse

What is online abuse?

Child abuse in all its forms is increasingly occurring online. The Internet and its range of content and services can be accessed through an ever developing variety of devices including PCs, laptops, mobile/smart phones, tablets, games consoles.

The Internet has, in particular, become a significant tool in the distribution of child abuse images.

Internet chat rooms and social networking sites can all be used as a means of contacting children with a view to grooming them for inappropriate or abusive relationships. This may include requests to make and transmit indecent images of themselves, or to perform sexual acts live online or to give their mobile phone number and other personal information.

The Serious Crime Act (2015) has introduced an offence of sexual communication with a child. This applies to an adult who communicates with a child and the communication is sexual or if it is intended to elicit from the child a communication which is sexual and the adult reasonably believes the child to be under 16 years of age. The act also amended the Sex Offences Act 2003 so it is now an offence for an adult to arrange to meet with someone under 16, for the purposes of committing a relevant offence, having communicated with them on just one occasion. See DSCB Briefing Note: Offence of Sexual Communication with a Child

Online bullying or cyber bullying

Children can engage in, or be a target of, bullying using a range of methods including text, phones or social network sites to reach their target. Mobile camera phones are also used to capture violent assaults of other children for circulation. This form of bullying is a growing problem in schools and other settings. It should be taken seriously by any practitioner who becomes aware of it. Harassment by use of ICT is a criminal offence and if necessary concerns should be reported to the police.

Youth produced sexual imagery 'sexting'

Youth produced sexual imagery also known as 'sexting' describes the use of technology to share sexual images (photos and videos) which young people, or another young person, have created themselves. Young people are not always aware that sharing images in this way is illegal. The widespread use of smart phones has made the practice much more common. It is a crime to take, make, permit to take, distribute, show, possess, possess with intent to distribute, or to advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of any person below the age of 18.

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), working in partnership with a wide range of schools, local authorities, polices forces and organisations including the Disclosure and Barring Service, the Internet Watch Foundation, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, DfE and teaching unions have published guidance for schools and education establishments in England. S‌sexting in Schools and Colleges: responding to incidents and safeguarding young people (2016) UKCCIS - offers practical advice about: 

  • responding to disclosures
  • handling devices and imagery
  • risk assessing situations
  • involving other agencies, including escalation to the police and Children's Social Care
  • recording incidents
  • involving parents
  • preventative education  

Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status. Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them.

Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.

What should I do if I have concerns about online abuse?

If you are concerned about abusive images of children online or that a child is at risk of online abuse (even if no physical contact has occurred) you can find more information in the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Procedures.

Always discuss your concerns with the senior person in your organisation who is responsible for safeguarding and child protection.

If you are a young person, parent or carer, you can contact Children's Social Care to discuss your concerns.

National Resources

There are a range of resources to raise awareness of online abuse and help practitioners, parents, children and young people keep up to date.

Anti-Bullying Alliance

The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) is a unique coalition of organisations and individuals, who work together to stop bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn.  The ABA has published findings in the UK and internationally, on the impact of involvement in school bullying (as a victim, bully, or bully-victim) on mental health throughout adolescence and into adulthood. 

CEOP - Safety Centre/Thinkuknow 

The National Crime Agency's CEOP Command (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. Has a large range of resources and materials for children, young people, parents, carers and professionals provided via Thinkuknow. They are designed to help children and young people keep themselves safe from sexual abuse and exploitation by developing skills in identifying and avoiding risk, learning how best to protect themselves and their friends, and knowing how to get support and report abuse if they do encounter difficulties.

UK Safer Internet Centre 

The UK Safer Internet Centre provides online safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people stay safe on the internet. Has a large range of online resources children, young people, parents, carers, teachers and other professionals. Includes materials for Safer Internet Day, online safety policies, safety features on social networks, family agreements for online use, reporting online sexual abuse content, a range of online services and products, online safety newsletters and a professionals online safety helpline.  

NSPCC - Online safety and Stop, Speak, Support campaign 

The NSPCC has a large range of resources to help prevent child abuse and neglect, including keeping children safe online. Includes online games, sexting, parental controls, talking to children about online safety and specific online safety resources for schools. They also help facilitate the Stop, Speak, Support campaign which has been designed for young people for young people to help address cyberbullying. Childline have produced a broad range of online and mobile safety resources for children.    

Childnet International 

Childnet International provides a broad range of online safety resources for children and young people aged 3 to 18, parents, carers and professionals about online safety, cyberbullying, sexting, peer pressure and self-esteem. They have published a Crossing the Line: PHSE Toolkit, a PHSE Association quality-assured resource with films and lesson plans for 11 to 14 year olds. In partnership with The National Deaf Children's Society they have also produced Be Safe, Be Smart Online to help and support deaf young people and their parents, carers and teachers to help and remind them how to stay safe online.

DfE online safety tool

The government has launched a new online tool for schools to give parents advice and tips on preparing their children for adult life. The new online service, called Parent Info, will give parents the information they need to help them navigate the minefield of issues children can now face on everything from spotting the warning signs of self-harm, to having a healthy body image and managing money in a digital world. As well as giving them the confidence and support to speak to their children on such sensitive issues, it will also provide them with pathways for where they can go for more hands on support on specific issues.

Key Principles of Effective Prevention Education

Key principles of effective prevention education - produced by the PSHE Association on behalf of CEOP. 

Produced in partnership with Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), this report outlines 11 key principles of effective practice in prevention education. These principles will help PSHE education professionals to teach high-quality online safety education as part of their broader PSHE programmes. The principles are based on a literature review of research into common elements of successful educational interventions, encompassing hundreds of programmes in the UK and abroad. 

Stop it Now!

Stop it Now! UK and Ireland is a child sexual abuse prevention campaign. It is run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused. It supports adults to play their part in prevention through providing sound information, educating members of the public, training those who work with children and families and running the freephone confidential Helpline.

Stop it Now! have produced a film to deter people from viewing and sharing sexual images of children.