There has been a steep surge in the number of children being tricked into making indecent images of themselves online, the UK’s online watchdog has warned, as it said almost half of child abuse pictures it now finds are self-generated.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said such images made up 44 per cent of all abuse material it uncovered online for the first half of this year, compared to 29 per cent of the 132,000 images it deleted in 2019.
The rise comes as the charity warned children had been spending more time indoors and online during the coronavirus pandemic and urged parents to have “frank discussions” with them about the dangers posed by strangers online.
The figures come as there has been a growing trend in recent years of children being duped or coerced by paedophiles into making images of themselves.
The IWF said this often happened by children being tricked into appearing on live streams by an offender pretending to be another child, who then takes screenshots without the victim’s knowledge.
Some of the self-generated images found by the IWF’s analysts was classed as the most serious Category A.
The charity has previously warned that girls aged 11 to 13 appeared to be most likely to fall victim, as it was an age when they often got their first smartphone.
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said predators were increasingly targeting children in their own homes.
She said: “You may think your child is safe in their bedroom, but even there, they may have been approached by a predator. From there, they can be blackmailed, coerced, or bullied into making videos of themselves for these criminals.
“That we are seeing even more of these videos is a disturbing development, and we would urge parents to speak frankly to their children about the kind of criminals who may be waiting out there.”