South Swindon MP Robert Buckland has said that the government is fully committed to tackling online harms, including grooming crimes, in a world-leading package of online safety measures.
Robert, who is also Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, co-hosted an online Hidden Harms Summit from Downing Street in May, alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
New data published by the NSPCC shows that Instagram is increasingly being used in online grooming offences. The data from the research shows:
Instagram was used in 37% of cases where the platform was recorded, compared with 29% over the previous three years.
Facebook-owned apps (Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp) were used in 51% of cases where the type of communication was recorded.
Snapchat was used in 20% of cases for which data was available.
The government has unveiled tough new measures to ensure that the UK is safer online including:
- Allocating £9.86 million to the National Crimes Agency to improve its ability to tackle perpetrators seeking to offend against children via the Dark Web, leaving no stone unturned in pursuing the most dangerous and sophisticated offenders.
- An additional £3.36 million is being committed to further improve understanding and tackle all aspects of the child sexual abuse threat. This will:
- Develop an ambitious project to co-ordinate data, intelligence and tasking to tackle overlapping forms of exploitation, which will strengthen our whole-system approach to vulnerability;
- Improve intelligence gathering and analytical capability of the Regional Organised Crime Units and using that intelligence to deliver a Prevention Programme to target local activity on exploitation; and
- support the work of the Vulnerability Knowledge Practice Programme in collating data, insight and best practice on these threats, ensuring a coordinated, effective and evidence-based response from policing.
Robert explained: “The data published by the NSPCC is extremely concerning, particularly for parents with children and teenagers and as a parent myself, I share these concerns.
“The government is fully committed to supporting those most vulnerable and protecting those at risk from harm and we are aware that the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it additional dangers.
“However, we must do more, and we can’t do this alone, which is why the government hosted the first Hidden Harms Virtual Summit. Bringing together representatives across government, the NHS, law enforcement, charities and frontline services; as well as survivors of hidden harm. Joined up support is crucial in this fight.”
Following the Summit, the government has produced detailed guidance for parents and carers on how they can keep children safe online.
The Department for Education also published interim safeguarding advice with the primary focus to support schools and colleges to keep children safe. The guidance asks schools and colleges to support parents and carers to keep children safe online and signpost them to information and advice such as NCA’s Thinkuknow resources, Internet Matters and Parent Info.
In addition, the government has provided the NSPCC with an extra £1.6 million to expand and promote their helpline for adults to report safeguarding concerns.
Finally, the Security Minister has written to tech firms on countering online child sexual exploitation and abuse during the coronavirus pandemic.
Parents and carers can find detailed government guidance on keeping children safe here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-keeping-children-safe-online
Further online safety advice for parents and children can be found on the NSPCC website here: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/