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E-Safety: Children Exposed to Abuse through Digital Media


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Definition
Risks
Indicators
Protection and Action to be taken
Issues
Further Information
Amendments to this Chapter


Definition

'Internet Abuse' relates to four main areas of abuse to children:

  • Sharing and production of abusive images of children (although these are not confined to the internet);
  • A child or young person being groomed online for the purpose of Sexual Abuse;
  • Exposure to pornographic images and other offensive material via the internet; and
  • The use of the internet, and in particular social media sites, to engage children in extremist ideologies or to promote gang related violence.

The term digital (data carrying signals carrying electronic or optical pulses) and interactive (a message relates to other previous message/s and the relationship between them) technology covers a range of electronic tools. These are constantly being upgraded and their use has become more widespread as the internet can be accessed easily on mobile / smart phones, laptops, computers, tablets and games consoles.

Social networking sites are often used by perpetrators as an easy way to access children and young people for sexual abuse. In addition radical and extremist groups may use social networking to attract children and young people into rigid and narrow ideologies that are intolerant of diversity: this is similar to the grooming process and exploits the same vulnerabilities.

Internet abuse may also include cyber-bullying or online bullying (see Bullying and Telecommunications (Jersey) Law 2002). This is when a child is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child using the internet and/or mobile devices. In the case of online bullying it is possible for one victim to be bullied by many perpetrators. In any case of severe bullying it may be appropriate to consider the behaviour as child abuse by another young person.

Sexting is a term used when a person shares describe sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others, or sends sexually explicit messages. They can be sent using mobiles, tablets, smartphones, laptops - any device that allows you to share media and messages.

Sexting can be seen as harmless, but creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, even if the person doing it is a child. A young person under the age of 18 is breaking the law if they:

  • Take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend;
  • Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it’s shared between children of the same age;
  • Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.

However, if a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed but that taking formal action is not in the public interest (see College of Policing - Briefing note: Police action in response to youth produced sexual imagery ('Sexting')).

E-Safety is the generic term that refers to raising awareness about how children, young people and adults can protect themselves when using digital technology and in the online environment, and provides examples of interventions that can reduce the level of risk for children and young people.

The chapters relating to Organised and Complex Abuse and Allegations against Staff or Volunteers should be borne in mind depending on the circumstances of the concerns.


Risks

There is some evidence from research that people found in possession of indecent images/pseudo images or films/videos of children may currently, or in the future become, involved directly in child abuse themselves.

In particular, an individual's access to children should be established during the assessment and Article 42 investigation to consider the possibility that they may be actively involved in the abuse of children including those within the family, within employment contexts or in other settings such as voluntary work with children or other positions of trust.

Any indecent, obscene image involving a child has, by its very nature, involved a person, who in creating that image, has been party to abusing that child.


Indicators

Often these issues involving child abuse come to light through an accidental discovery of images on a computer or other device and can seem to emerge ‘out of the blue’ from an otherwise trusted and non-suspicious individual. This in itself can make accepting the fact of the abuse difficult for those who know and may have trusted that individual. Partners, colleagues and friends often find it very difficult to believe and may require support.

The initial indicators of child abuse are likely to be changes in behaviour and mood of the child victim. Clearly such changes can also be attributed to many innocent events in a child’s life and cannot be regarded as diagnostic. However changes to a child’s circle of friends or a noticeable change in attitude towards the use of computer or phone could have their origin in abusive behaviour. Similarly a change in their friends or not wanting to be alone with a particular person may be a sign that something is upsetting them.

Children often show us rather than tell us that something is upsetting them. There may be many reasons for changes in their behaviour, but if we notice a combination of worrying signs it may be time to call for help or advice.


Protection and Action to be taken

Accessing or Creating Indecent Images

Where there is suspected or actual evidence of anyone accessing or creating indecent images of children, this must be shared with the Police.

Online Grooming

Where there are concerns about a child being groomed, exposed to pornographic material or contacted by someone inappropriately, via the internet or other ICT tools like a mobile phone, referrals should be made to the Police and a MASH enquiry initiated (see MASH Enquiries Procedure).

Where appropriate, the parent’s permission should normally be sought before discussing an enquiry about them with other agencies, unless permission-seeking may itself place a child or young person at risk of significant harm.

The Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018 article 15 – provides for the offence of ‘sexual grooming of a child’. The offence carries a punishment of 10 years and is an offence for an adult to either meet someone under 16 (a child) or travel with the intention of meeting the said person for the purposes of a relevant offence having communicated with them on at least one earlier occasion.

All such reports should be taken seriously. Referrals will normally lead to a Strategy Discussion to determine the course of further investigation, enquiry and assessment. Any intervention should be continually under review especially if further evidence comes to light.

Due to the nature of this type of abuse and the possibility of the destruction of evidence, the enquirer should first discuss their concerns with their safeguarding lead or line manager. This will enable an effective decision to be made about informing the family and ensuring that the child’s welfare is safeguarded.

All such reports should be taken seriously. Most referrals will warrant a Strategy Discussion to determine the course of further investigation or enquiry. Intervention should be continually under review if further evidence comes to light.

When investigating child abuse images, the Police should consider whether the individual might also be involved in the active abuse of children either online or in real life. The Children’s Service should assist the Police in establishing the individual’s access to children within the family, employment or voluntary activity. If there are particular concerns about a child or children then there will be a need to instigate the matter as a child protection enquiry.

The range of child abuse definitions and concepts that are now being seen in the digital environment has increased. As technology develops the Internet and its range of content/services has become accessible through a greater variety of devices that extend far beyond traditional PCs into the realm of smart-phones and handheld gaming devices.

As part of their role in preventing abuse and neglect, SPB works with its partners to raise awareness about the safe use of the Internet.

Suspected online terrorist or extremist material can be reported to either the States of Jersey Police or www.gov.uk/report-terrorism. Content of concern can also be reported directly to social media platforms.


Issues

When communicating via the internet, young people tend to become less wary and talk about things far more openly than they might when communicating face to face.

Both male and female adults and some young people may use the internet to harm children. Some do this by looking at, taking and/or distributing photographs and video images on the internet of children naked, in sexual poses and/or being sexually abused.

Children and young people should be supported to understand that when they use digital technology they should not give out personal information, particularly their name, address or school, mobile phone numbers to anyone they do not know or trust: this particularly includes social networking and online gaming sites. If they have been asked for such information, they should always check with their parent or other trusted adult before providing such details. It is also important that they understand why they must take a parent or trusted adult with them if they meet someone face to face whom they have only previously met on-line.

All schools in Jersey have one or more identified members of staff with responsibility for co-ordinating the provision of e-safety training and for ensuring that appropriate e-safety awareness raising activities are presented to children in school.

Children and young people should be warned about the risks of taking sexually explicit pictures of themselves and sharing them on the internet or by text. It is essential, therefore, that young people understand the legal implications and the risks they are taking. The initial risk posed by sexting may come from peers, friends and others in their social network who may share the images. However, once an image has been sent, it can then be shared with others or posted online. The Telecommunications (Jersey) Law 2002 introduces offences to deal with ‘revenge porn’ and other related matters where intimate images are shared with the intent to cause distress to the specific victim.

Where young people are voluntarily sending/sharing sexual images or content with one another the Police are likely to use the 'outcome 21' recording code to record that a crime has been committed but that it is not considered to be in the public interest to take criminal action against the people involved. This reduces stigma and distress for children and help to minimise the long term impact of the situation (see Jersey Police – Self taken images – ‘sexting’).

In some cases adults may also groom a young persons into sending such images which can then be used to blackmail and ensnare them – see Child Sexual Exploitation.


Further Information

(Always refer to Jersey Law and Procedures to complement advice and guidance).

Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2018

Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018

Jersey Police – Online Safety

Government of Jersey – Be safe online

Protection of Children (Jersey) Law 1994 – law pertaining to indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of children.

The following legislation may apply:

Article 51 of the Telecommunications (Jersey) Law: Prohibits the sending by means of a public telecommunication system of a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; in certain circumstances sending false messages.

Crime (Disorderly Conduct and Harassment) (Jersey) Law 2008: Section 3; Harassment subject to reasonable person test.

Coram children’s legal centre - LawStuff is run by Coram Children’s Legal Centre and gives free legal information to young people on a range of different issues. See Children’s rights in the digital world in particular.

UK Safer Internet website and CEOP, thinkUknow website.

Childnet Advice on Sexting

Social Media as a Catalyst and Trigger for Youth Violence (Catch 22)

Behaviour that is illegal if committed offline is also illegal if committed online. It is recommended that legal advice is sought in the event of an online issue or situation. There are a number of pieces of legislation that may apply including:

NSPCC

YOTI online ID protection service

Online content reporting and removal


Amendments to this Chapter

In June 2019, this guidance was reviewed and refreshed as required.

End.