Across Wales and England, between April 2017 and September 2018, there have been over 5,000 online grooming crimes recorded by police authorities, according to information obtained by the NSPCC. 66 of those recorded online grooming offences were recorded by Dorset Police.
The use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat as a means for online grooming has raised massive concerns, and female teenagers are most likely the targeted victims. According to records, Instagram was used by groomers in 126 instances in 2017. But in April 2018 to September 2018, it ballooned to 428 instances, an increase of more than 200 percent. Facebook is the second most-used in grooming, and the third is Snapchat.
Specifically, young girls aged 12 to 15 and children aged 5 years old are the likely victims. Regulations to enforce a legal duty to the ministers to protect children on social media sites were urged by the NSPCC. If the ministers fail to do so, hefty fines will be charged to them.
One victim of online grooming shared her traumatizing experience, named Emily (not her actual name). Emily is a 13-year-old girl who was victim to a 24-year-old man. According to Emily the man introduced himself as a 16-year-old, and he suspiciously changed it to 18 years old. The man added Emily on Facebook and Snapchat wherein he sent sexual texts, photos, and videos after chatting for several minutes. The 24-year-old then offered to pick Emily from school. When he picked her up, Emily thought she’ll be brought home directly. Instead, he drove into a discreet place in the woods and raped her. After that, he brought Emily at a street near her home and kicked her out of his car at the traffic lights. She said it was her first sexual encounter that left her bleeding and crying. Emily’s mother blamed herself and social media for what happened to her daughter.
According to NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless, they are worried about the exponential increase in online grooming crimes, and they can no longer wait for tech companies to make counteractions against the matter.