• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Young seek help over online abuse

CHILD protection agencies are calling for a community response to internet safety to protect young people after it emerged child ­counselling for online abuse has doubled in two years.

ELAINE CHALMERS: Made a call  for parents to play their part.
ELAINE CHALMERS: Made a call for parents to play their part.

Last year 4500 young people from across the UK contacted the NSPCC's ChildLine for support and advice on how to deal with being bullied via social networking sites, chat rooms, online gaming sites or via their mobile phones. Two years prior to this were 2250 calls.

The charity said the figures were "proof positive that more needs to be done to protect the vulnerable" and called for better monitoring of children's online behaviour.

With the proliferation of camera phones now in circulation young people are now able to access sexually explicit material more easily.

The NSPCC said children were increasingly contacting ChildLine about being made to post sexually provocative images online, or share them via a mobile phone at the request of someone they had met online. The number of counselling sessions about so-called sexting has consequently increased by 28% since 2011/12.

Grooming was another form of online sexual abuse talked about by young people across the UK, with one in four telling ChildLine that they had been groomed online.

Speaking ahead of Safer ­Internet Day today, Elaine ­Chalmers, manager of NSPCC Scotland's ChildLine bases in Glasgow and Aberdeen, said that: "The online world offers an incredible breadth of information, as well as being an essential skill for life and the working world.

"However, the ease with which children and young people can access the online environment - be it by phone, tablet, laptop and even gaming - means that we have to both monitor and educate young people to make safe and responsible choices.

"There is no question that industry and government have a huge responsibility to develop innovative solutions to the proliferation of child protection problems online, but the buck doesn't - and must not - stop there."

Separate research has also shown that two in three UK parents have discussed internet safety with their children but fewer than one in five have discussed how to report cyberbullying and online sexual abuse.

It comes after high-profile cases of Twitter abuse, including two people being jailed for sending threats to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez in January.

Ms Chalmers added: "We need to step up to the plate within our schools, homes and communities to reinforce what is and isn't acceptable, and to be prepared to engage with what children are really doing and experiencing online.

"It's vital that how we manage sex education is in tune with what young people are encountering online. Very often they've seen a wealth of inappropriate, unrealistic and sometimes downright harmful content, which we're failing to challenge in any meaningful way. We need to help them frame what they're encountering, in terms of pornography, peer pressure and relationships, so that they achieve a view of what is genuinely 'normal' and appropriate.

"The fact that young people's online literacy tends to outstrip that of many adults is something we need to be proactive in addressing. We must not allow our lack of confidence to mean huge areas of online activity are a mystery to us.

"For many Scottish parents, curtailing the amount of time spent online takes priority over monitoring exactly what young people are accessing, and how they are interacting with other users."

Contextual targeting label: 
Block list

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

211961