The dangers we can’t see

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A new poll for Barnardo’s reveals that half of young people surveyed admitted that their parents don’t really know what they do online.

One in 11 said their parents know nothing.

The same survey says a third of young people find it easier to show their real personality on the internet than with people face-to-face.

It’s essential that parents and professionals understand the technology children are using and who they’re talking to online so we can protect them from abusers pretending to be their friends.

Our new Digital Dangers report, published jointly with the Marie Collins Foundation, examines the impact of the digital revolution on the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and young people.

It explores how children are vulnerable to being groomed and sexually exploited on the internet via mobile technology.

The author interviewed staff, parents and service users at Barnardo’s specialist child sexual exploitations services.

They revealed a number of disturbing findings about the young victims they support who are at risk of or have been sexually exploited.

Many said that child victims don’t necessarily fit a vulnerable or “at risk” stereotype.

This means they could be anyone’s child.

They’re also less inhibited online, and say that using highly sexualised language and sending naked images of themselves to strangers is normal.

Online victims can be younger than those exploited and groomed offline.

It’s also of deep concern that these children rarely tell anyone that they’re being groomed or abused online for fear of the shame.

The report shows that a number of parents had no idea that their child was being harmed online until they were contacted by the police.

Barnardo’s works hard to keep children and young people safe by making them aware of the risks online.

Clearly, there are lessons for all of us in this report.

Parents and professionals need to be more aware of the technologies children use and talk to them about what they’re doing online.

The Government, industry and voluntary sector need to implement measures to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation happening online.

And collectively we need to give children vital sex education and healthy relationship lessons, so they’re aware of the risks online.

The internet and mobile technology has changed everything.

Today one of the biggest dangers facing our children is the one we can’t see.

The most important question we should be asking our children is “what’s happening online?”

Javed Khan,

Barnardo’s CEO,

C/o Tanners Lane,