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5.4 Child Abuse and Technology

AMENDMENT

This chapter was significantly amended in August 2011 and should be read in its entirety.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Indecent Images of Children
  3. Social Network Sites
  4. Preventive Information Support and Advice
  5. Findings of Cyberbullying Survey


1. Introduction

1.1 As technology develops, the Internet and its range of services, mobile phones, text messaging and mobile camera phones can be used as mediums to harm children.
1.2 Internet chat rooms, discussion forums and bulletin boards can be used as a means of contacting children with a view to grooming them for inappropriate or abusive relationships, which may include requests to make and transmit pornographic images of themselves or to perform sexual acts live in front of a web cam.
1.3 Contacts made initially in a chat room are likely to be carried on via email, instant messaging services, mobile phone and text messaging.
1.4 There is also a growing cause for concern about the exposure of children to inappropriate material via interactive communication technology e.g. adult pornography and extreme forms of obscene material. Allowing or encouraging a child to view such material will warrant further enquiry as it may indicate that the child is at risk of Significant Harm.


2. Indecent Images of Children

2.1 There is some evidence that people found in possession of indecent photographs/pseudo photographs or films/videos of children are likely to be involved directly in child abuse themselves. When someone is discovered to have placed or accessed such material on the Internet, the Police should normally consider the potential likelihood that the individual is involved in the active abuse of children.
2.2 It is important to remember that although innocent images of children are subsequently edited to create an indecent image often actual children being sexually abused are photographed or filmed to create the images that are then made available through the internet. This is not a victimless crime, whether the individual has played a part in the making of the image or has viewed the image they are party to the abuse of the child.
2.3 The safeguarding aspect of an investigation into an individual who has viewed indecent images of children will be to identify children they are in contact with including children within their own family, within their employment and in other settings such as voluntary work with children or other positions of trust and to assess how their actions impact and what risk of harm is presented to these children. (see Section 4.1).
2.4 Where there is suspected or actual evidence of anyone accessing or creating indecent images of children, this must be referred to the Police who will in turn liaise with Children's Social Work Services and the process of referral, strategy discussion and assessment will be undertaken in line with these procedures as set out in sections 3.1-3.4.
2.5

The Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland has released its position on young people who post self-taken indecent images in response to the grooming trend by young people to take and share indecent photos, not only of themselves, but also of friends and partners through SMS on mobile phones. The Position Statement is intended to promote a holistic approach as opposed to a purely criminal justice focused approach. The position statement will be used to inform local responses to any such cases. Case specific advice is available via Child Exploitation and Online Protection CEOP Centre (+44(0)8700003344).


3. Social Network Sites

3.1 The Sexual Offences Act 2003 recognised the inappropriate use of the internet and in particular the use of Social Network sites by adults for the purpose of grooming and meeting children to commit sexual offences.
3.2 The Act provides legislation for the prosecution of adults who have been communicating with a child and where it is proved that their intention has been to meet and groom the child for sexual gratification.
3.3 Where a parent of professional suspects that a child may be at risk of grooming behaviour from an adult they should report the matter to the police or Children’s Social Work Services (see the Making Referrals to Children's Social Care Procedure).


4. Preventive Information Support and Advice

4.1 An important aspect of safeguarding children and young people from child abuse in a digital world is to empower them and their parents/carers to take steps to reduce the risks of harm in the first place.
4.2 Children and young people, parents and carers as well as those working with children can access resources at Think U Know website.


5. Findings of Cyberbullying Survey

5.1 A summary of the findings of the cyber bullying survey carried out in Solihull in 2009 along with recommendations and resources can be accessed by the Solihull Gov website.

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