GROOMING alerts are needed to protect children online says the NSPCC after 17 grooming crimes were recorded by Warwickshire Police in the wake of a new law.
The offence of Sexual Communication with a Child came into force on April 3 last year following a campaign by the NSPCC. Nationally more than 1,300 child grooming crimes were recorded.
The youngest victim targeted in Warwickshire was eight-years-old. The majority of victims, most of which were girls, were aged 12 to 15.
Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram were the most common methods used by groomers where the method of communication was recorded.
Before the new law came into force, police could not intervene until groomers met their victims. In 2015 former England footballer Adam Johnson sent sexual messages to a 15-year-old girl, before meeting her and engaging in sexual activity.
The NSPCC is now calling on the government and social media networks to develop technology already at their disposal to prevent grooming, and bring in grooming alerts.
Tony Stower, NSPCC head of child safety online, said: “Despite the staggering number of grooming offences in just six months, government and social networks are not properly working together and using all the tools available to stop this crime from happening.
“Government’s Internet Safety Strategy must require social networks to build in technology to keep their young users safe, rather than relying on police to step in once harm has already been done.
“If government makes a code for social networks that is entirely optional and includes no requirement for platforms to tackle grooming, this is a massive missed opportunity and children will continue to be put at risk.”
Children worried about inappropriate messages online can contact Childline at www.childline.org.uk or by calling 0800 11 11.