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Internet poses key threat to children, claims protection agency

The spread of indecent images of children over the internet has been earmarked as the greatest threat to the UK's young people over the next year. That's according to Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre's new study which is warning the growing availability of high-speed internet around the world is likely to increase the threat of sexual abuse to children.

CEOP Chief Executive Peter Davies said:

"We recognise that the world is constantly changing and offenders will continue to seek new ways to abuse children, which is why our work with partners around the globe is constantly evolving to ensure we're always one step ahead of abusers."

Miranda Suit from Safer Media told Premier's Marcus Jones on the News Hour why she wants to see more curbs on what can be viewed online:

The agency's annual review also revealed that it dealt with 18,887 reports of abuse over the past year, an average of 1,600 a month and an increase of 14% on the previous year. However, it also safeguarded and protected a record 790 children which is an 85% rise. Experts say victims are more willing to come forward following high-profile investigations into Jimmy Savile and other celebrities.

Peter Saunders, from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, says survivors have a voice:

"Not just reporting abuse at the hands of the so-called celebrities, but we've heard from people who have been abused by family members and so on. 

"I think simply so many people coming forward has enabled other people to feel, at long last, that they can speak out."

CEOP also said it has delivered safety messages to 2.6million children during the past year and has trained 400 new ambassadors to help deliver internet safety training, bringing the total number to 4,373 across the UK. Meanwhile, an Online Safety Bill has had its First Reading in the House of Lords today.

Baroness Howe introduced legislation intended to protect under-eighteens from adult content online.

The peer said she's proposing web filtering on the basis of age-verification:

"If we really care about children then we must not shy away from using the law to protect them online, as we do very properly offline.

"It makes no sense that children are prohibited by law from accessing adult content offline but that no parallel regulatory framework exists online. 

"If we value children and recognise that it is not appropriate for children to access adult content offline then the same must apply online - and yet, all too often, it doesn't."

The Bill is being welcomed by charities campaigning for internet safety for children.

Dan Boucher, Director of Parliamentary Affairs from the charity CARE, said:

"We are facing the reality that children across the UK have easy access to sickeningly abusive images and content online, from violent pornography to websites promoting self-harm. 

"The internet giants are not doing enough to stem this tide of harmful material so greater demands must be made of them by Parliament.

"Baroness Howe's Bill provides a critical opportunity for Parliament to compel mobile phone operators and internet service providers to take responsibility for their inaction in what would be a major step towards greater internet safety for children."

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