Instagram is being used more than other social media platforms by sex offenders targeting children for grooming, with recorded instances of sexual communication with children tripling on the Facebook-owned app.
Figures obtained by child protection charity the NSPCC show that 5,161 online grooming offences were recorded by police in just 18 months. Of these instances, 70 per cent of the time the communication occurred on either Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram – with Instagram alone accounting for 33 per cent.
In the six months between 1 April 2018 and 30 September 2018, offences recorded increased almost 50 per cent compared to the same period in 2017. Instagram recorded instances grew 200 per cent over the same time period.
“These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks,” said Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC. “We cannot wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are made to act. It is hugely concerning to see the sharp spike in grooming offences on Instagram, and it is vital that the platform designs basic protection more carefully into the service it offers young people.
“After 10 years of failed self-regulation by social networks, it is crucial that the Government’s imminent Online Harms White Paper includes new laws that tackle online grooming once and for all.”
The NSPCC gained access to the figures via Freedom of Information requests to 43 police forces in England and Wales. Only Surrey, Sussex, Northampton, and City of London police failed to provide data.