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Webpages showing children sexually abusing themselves ‘up 1,000% since 2019’

There has been a 1,000% increase in webpages showing self-generated sexual abuse imagery of primary school children since 2019, a safety group has said.

The Internet Watch Foundation said it has seen a 1,058% increase in the number of webpages showing sexual abuse images and videos of children aged 7-10 who had recorded themselves.

The IWF recorded 63,050 reports related to self-generated sexual abuse imagery of children in 2022, compared to 5,443 in 2019.

The group said that in many cases the children had been groomed, coerced, or tricked into performing sexual acts on camera by an internet predator.

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The charity, which finds and removes child sexual abuse imagery from the internet, warned that the pandemic allowed internet predators greater access to children.

A teenage girl using a mobile phone (Chris Radburn/PA)
A teenage girl using a mobile phone (Chris Radburn/PA)

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said: “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. We have all adjusted our lives to be more online than ever before, and that is not going to change.

“During the pandemic, the internet was a lifeline. But we are only now unpacking the full effects. What is clear to us is that younger children are being pulled into abusive situations by rapacious predators, often while they are in their own bedrooms.

“Their parents are often unaware there is this online backdoor into their homes which is leaving their children vulnerable. I fear this could be the tip of the iceberg.”

The group advised parents to keep their children safe by using the Talk checklist.

– Talk to your child about online sexual abuse. Start the conversation – and listen to their concerns.

– Agree ground rules about the way you use technology as a family.

– Learn about the platforms and apps your child loves. Take an interest in their online life.

– Know how to use tools, apps and settings that can help to keep your child safe online.