MPs have launched an inquiry into the “disturbing” rise of self-generated child sexual abuse material.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media will investigate the problem, amid warnings of online communities “devoted” to contacting and grooming children.
Self-generated material can include content created by the child themselves using video camera devices.
In some cases, they are coerced, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves, often with their parents unaware of what is going on.
Labour MP Chris Elmore, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, said: “Recently, we’ve seen a disturbing increase in self-generated indecent images of children online, particularly 11– 13-year-old girls.
“Our inquiry will seek to understand the current scale of the threat and how this has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic; where this imagery is produced and distributed; and current initiatives that exist to protect children. It will be the first national inquiry into the rise of this content.
“Just as we have a responsibility to protect children in the physical world, we must also take responsibility for protecting them online.
“These are among the first generations of children to grow up with the near-constant presence of social media.
“To abandon them to an unregulated ‘Wild West’ online would be to make them guinea pigs in a disturbing experiment.
“I’m determined to protect our kids – and this new inquiry will be an important part of that work.”
The inquiry, titled “Selfie Generation: What’s behind the rise of self-generated indecent images of children online?”, will look into the causes and recommend ways to combat it.
It comes after the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reported that 44% of all the child sexual abuse content dealt with in the first six months of 2020 involved self-generated material, up by 15 percentage points on 2019 when it stood at 29%.
An internet content analyst at the IWF, who remains anonymous to protect their identity, warned: “There are communities that are devoted to not just finding child sexual abuse content, but actually trying to find the victims themselves because they want to be the ones to have them perform these sexual acts live. It is not uncommon.”
The UK Safer Internet Centre – a partnership between the SWGfL, Childnet and the IWF charities – will lead the inquiry as secretariat of the APPG.
“It is tragic that we are seeing a troubling rise of this kind of material where children are being groomed or coerced into this abuse themselves,” said Will Gardner, director of UK Safer Internet Centre.
“That predators are actively looking to exploit children in this way is quite shocking.
“I would urge parents to be aware that this can happen, and to have frank discussions with their children about the potential dangers and the steps to keep safe.
“It is important to remind children it is never too late to talk to their parents about things that have taken place online.”