How to report online child sexual abuse

Do you or your child know how to report something worrying or upsetting that you’ve seen online? This guide explains how to report online child sexual abuse, as well as how to protect children and young people online.

The internet has become an integral part of our lives, and the lives of our children, and it’s a world that offers many positive opportunities. However, keeping kids safe online includes knowing how to report worrying content if they come across it.

According to Ofcom (2019), a third of 12-15s say they have seen something worrying or nasty online. Despite high awareness of online reporting functions, only half (52%) who had seen something worrying or nasty reported it.

Awareness of reporting functions is more likely among heavier users of the internet, which suggests that greater online use can make children more aware of how to deal with online risks.

Our confidential helpline, new live chat and secure messaging service are here for anyone with concerns about child sexual abuse and its prevention.

Using the internet safely and responsibly

Children start using computers from a very early age and are increasingly using the internet more and more, whether at home, in school, on their mobile phones or on a games console. With this in mind, internet safety and knowing how to help protect children and young people online is essential.

Just as we want to keep our children safe in the ‘real’ offline world, we want to do the same in the virtual online world. It is important that we understand enough about the internet to keep our children safe from harm, but it is equally important that we equip our children with the skills they need to keep themselves safe. This will allow them to experience the internet positively and responsibly.

For more internet safety advice, visit Parents Protect.

Part of using the internet responsibly is knowing how – and when – to report something worrying or upsetting that’s been seen online, even if this is accidental.

How to talk to your child about staying safe online

Communicating openly with your children about a wide range of topics, including staying safe online, can start from a young age, and continuing this conversation regularly will help build trust between you. Children and young people need to be able to trust you enough to reach out to you when things go wrong, or if they are worried about something.

Let them know that they can tell you if they become uncomfortable with anything that happens on the internet, and acknowledge that it may be difficult for them to do this. Help them to learn that we all make mistakes when growing up, but that if they do, you can help.

Make sure that your child understands that they are responsible for their actions. This includes what they choose to do if they receive a sexually explicit photo. Explain that if they do receive one, they need to delete it immediately. Tell them why they should do this and the consequences of not doing so, as well as what might happen if they send it on – as then they are distributing indecent images of children – and that they could get into trouble with the police.

Ask your children if they know how to report something on social media. If they say yes, get them to show you. If not, it’s an opportunity for you to learn together.

How to report something you’ve seen online

Woman and child sit together at a laptop

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) can help and give you advice, and you or your child can make a report directly to them if something has happened online that has made them feel unsafe, scared or worried.

As well as making a report, the CEOP Thinkuknow website has information and advice to help if something has happened to your child online. Anyone can report suspected online sexual abuse images to the Internet Watch Foundation. Make sure your child knows they can do this if they come across a sexual image where it looks like someone in the image is under 18.

They take all reports seriously and will do everything they can to keep you safe. Some of the things children and young people have reported to CEOP include:

  • Someone online has asked me to send them nude images
  • I shared a nude image with someone online and they are threatening me
  • I did something that I was embarrassed about on webcam and someone has turned nasty towards me
  • Someone I don’t know is asking me to live-stream and do things I don’t want to do
  • Someone online kept asking me to meet them face-to-face and I feel pressured by them
  • Someone online was talking to me about sex and it made me feel uncomfortable
  • Someone online is putting pressure on me to do things I don’t want to do
  • Someone I met in an online game keeps trying to talk to me privately

Find information and resources to keep your kids safe online

Our Parents Protect website has plenty of information and resources on how to keep children safe from sexual abuse, including what to do if your child gets into trouble online.

We have more tips on how to keep your kids safe online during lockdown in this post.

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