A new report published by Childline has highlighted a dramatic rise in calls from young people regarding online abuse, pornography and bullying, further emphasising a move away from instances of physical abuse towards mental health issues.
The charity’s annual report for 2013/14, published on the NSPCC website, catalogues a shocking 168% increase in calls from 12-15 years olds about online sexual abuse over the 12 month period, with an even split between girls and boys. One of the biggest threats it said was from cyber bullying but a huge 145% of young people who called Childline were to discuss online pornography.
Of the 300,000 calls made by children and young people, a total of 11,095 were about online abuse and online safety. Mental Health and the pressure to share explicit images was of a large concern by teenagers in particular.
Four of the top ten issues children get in touch about relate to mental health, and taken together these account for more than two thirds of counselling sessions carried out by ChildLine.
The five biggest issues were family relationships, self-harm, suicidal feelings, low self-esteem and unhappiness and mental health issues that are prolonged or re-occurring – all aspects the experts say significantly interfere with the young person being able to lead a normal life.
The Bullying Intervention Group has responded to the report by saying that in ‘effective’ schools, cyber bullying can be reduced by up to a half, whereas in ‘ineffective ‘ schools rates are very high with a peak at age 14-15.
Another survey, The Cybersurvey2014 showed that those involved in sexting were also at risk in numerous other ways online, including visiting sites that talk about self-harm and suicide or anorexia. They were also reporting personal details hacked, for example.
The internet may have opened up a new route to abuse for some young people but for a great many who want help about what to do, the internet is now the preferred method of communicating with charities. 68 per cent of ChildLine counselling sessions now take place online, with many young people saying they find it easier to talk about their problems in this way rather than over the phone.
The biggest frustration for local authorities and organisations is the apparent lack of up-to-date information. Some local councils and clinical commissioning groups are having to write health and wellbeing strategies without really knowing how many children have what problems.
Health services and schools are unsure what support they should be offering and whether they are meeting the needs of the children that need help.
MPs and those campaigning for better awareness of safeguarding children and young people against threats to safety on the internet have openly commented that there are huge reasons why children’s mental health has been overshadowed – and lack of data is one of them.
It makes the issues easier to ignore and makes it harder to count up the constituent pieces. We are using data a decade out of date. A lot of the children we are providing services for weren’t even born then.
Childline 2013/14 report and NSPCC – http://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/annual-reports/childline-review-under-pressure.pdf
Bullying Intervention Group – http://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/annual-reports/childline-review-under-pressure.pdf