Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland indecent child image crimes soar by 70%

By Chris McCullough

Offences involving the possession of indecent images of children in Northern Ireland soared by 70% last year - sending alarm bells ringing throughout the province.

Nearly 400 crimes were reported, police figures show.

The NSPCC has warned there are hidden dangers in using the internet and has called on parents to be more vigilant.

Referring to Safe Internet Day, which is today, the head of the NSPCC for Northern Ireland, Neil Anderson, said: "With the use of internet devices rising year on year, knowing how to protect young people online is becoming an even greater challenge.

"To children, online friends are real friends and online life is real life. There's no difference.

"This leaves them open to the risk of online abuse more than ever before.

"The dangers of the internet are clear.

"Last year alone, the number of offences involving the possession of indecent images of children recorded by the PSNI rose by over 70% to 394 in 2015/16.

"Young people can often share too much about themselves online without realising the consequences.

"Therefore, it is also vital that they know how to get help if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable about something they see online.

"We would always encourage parents to have open and honest conversations with their children to understand how to stay safe and where to go when things go wrong.

"Setting up parental controls, alongside regular chats about their digital lives, can go a long way to minimising the risks.

Meanwhile, seven in 10 children and young people have seen unsuitable images and videos online across the UK, according to a report.

The vast majority of eight to 17-year-olds questioned (84%) told researchers they had shared a photo online in the last day, with around 17% saying they had done so in the last hour.

The poll of 1,500 eight to 17-year-olds was commissioned by the UK Safer Internet Centre.

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