How safe are our children?

Topics: Safeguarding and child protection

An overview of data on child abuse online

For the past six years our annual How safe are our children? report has compiled and analysed data from across the UK to show the current child protection landscape.

This year, for the first time, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have taken on this task, with the first edition of its compendium of child abuse data sources for England and Wales due in winter 2019/20.

We have taken this opportunity to refocus our 2019 report on statistics relating to the issue of online abuse.

"If we are to keep children safe online we need big, sweeping changes to the whole internet landscape." 
Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO

Key findings from 2019

Our 2019 report found:

  • year on year increases in the numbers and rates of police-recorded online child sexual offences in England and Wales and Northern Ireland
  • increases in police-recorded offences of obscene publications or indecent photos in all four UK nations over the last five years
  • increases in the number of URLs confirmed by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) as containing child sexual abuse imagery since 2015
  • less than half of children aged 12 to 15 say they know how to change their settings to control who can view their social media
  • the majority of parents, carers and members of the public agree that social networks should have a legal responsibility to keep children safe on their platforms.

Key policy calls from 2019 

Following the publication of the government’s online harms white paper, we are calling on the government to ensure that it delivers a statutory regulator that:

  • has the necessary powers and resources to do its job
  • subjects platforms to a legally enforceable duty of care
  • makes platforms report on how they keep children safe
  • carries consequences for platforms that breach safeguarding rules
  • makes platforms take proactive steps to prevent exposure to illegal behaviour.

Authors: Holly Bentley, Andy Burrows, Maria Hafizi, Pooja Kumari, Niamh Mussen, Orla O’Hagan and Jessica Peppiate; with contributions from Professor Sonia Livingstone, Laura Clarke, Adam Hildreth, Peter Maude, John-Orr Hanna and Matt Lindsay

Published: 2019

Please cite as: Bentley, H. et al (2019) How safe are our children? 2019: an overview of data on child abuse online. London: NSPCC

Previous reports

Previous 'How safe are our children?' reports

How safe are our children? 2018

The sixth report included an in-depth look at findings from the NSPCC’s and O2’s annual Net Aware survey, which asked children and young people about their experiences online. It also called on the government to legislate to make children safer online.

> Download How safe are our children? 2018 (PDF)

How safe are our children? 2017

The fifth report included findings from the Crime survey for England and Wales about adults’ experiences of abuse in childhood and called for a new prevalence survey of children’s experiences of abuse and neglect.

> Download How safe are our children? 2017 (PDF)

How safe are our children? 2016

The fourth report highlighted the need for more therapeutic support for children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

> Download How safe are our children? 2016 (PDF)

How safe are our children? 2015

The third report highlighted rising reports to the police of child sexual abuse, whilst stressing that we must not lose sight of the risks posed by other forms of abuse, in particular neglect.

> Download How safe are our children? 2015 (PDF)

How safe are our children? 2014

The second report included a new indicator about public attitudes to child abuse and neglect. It also included sections on risk factors for abuse and neglect and the criminal justice response to child sexual abuse.

> Download How safe are our children? 2014 (PDF)

How safe are our children? 2013

The first report set out 19 indicators related to child abuse and child safety. It looked at the gap between the number of children in the child protection system and the number that have experienced abuse or neglect.

> Download How safe are our children? 2013 (PDF)