Best Practice

Protecting students from online sexual exploitation and abuse

Horrifying recent figures show the extent to which online sexual exploitation and abuse has proliferated since Covid lockdowns – and much of this material is being self-generated by the victims themselves. Elizabeth Rose explains what schools should be doing to protect children

In January, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF, 2023) published data showing that sexual abuse imagery of primary-aged children is 1,000% worse since the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The statistics for the numbers of children harmed through online sexual abuse – and the number of images and videos removed by the IWF – has been growing steadily across all age ranges over recent years and these latest figures are horrifying.

The IWF report that it has seen a 1,058% increase in the numbers of children aged 7 to 10 who have been recorded, “via an internet-connected device, often by a predator that has contacted them online”.

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