The most used platform for groomers is Instagram, according to an NSPCC report based on police data.
Grooming is defined by the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) as the act of building an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purpose of sexual abuse or exploitation. The NSPCC report found that grooming cases involves one major social media platform or another in 70 percent of cases where the method is revealed by police, with Instagram being the most popular.
The NSPCC found that Instagram was used in 32 percent of those instances, Facebook in 23 percent, and Snapchat in 14 percent, citing data obtained from police under Freedom of Information laws. The data shows that the use of Instagram as a tool for grooming has seen a 200 percent increase from 2017 to 2018 (over a period of approximately 18 months).
Sexual communication with a child has been a criminal offence since 2017, in the period since then more than 5000 instances have been recorded, the NSPCC found. The data also shows that girls aged 12 to 15 were most likely to be targeted by groomers.
"Keeping young people safe on our platforms is our top priority and child exploitation of any kind is not allowed," a spokesperson for Facebook and Instagram said in a statement emailed to Mashable. "We use advanced technology and work closely with the police and CEOP (The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) to aggressively fight this type of content and protect young people.”
Facebook and Instagram also said that it removes 99.2 percent of content relating to child exploitation or nudity before it's reported, and that it works hard to block users searching for known child exploitative terms.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said in a statement that politicians must step in to help combat grooming, since platforms are still failing to protect its youngest users, after "10 years of failed self-regulation."
"These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks," Wanless said.