NSPCC expands service to help keep Plymouth school children safe online during COVID-19 crisis

    Photography by Tom Hull

    More than 200 online grooming crimes have been recorded by Devon & Cornwall Police in the last two and a half years

    A children's charity has expanded its service to more Plymouth school children, to help tackle online sexual abuse during the pandemic.

    'In Ctrl' was launched at the start of the year and was piloted in a group-work setting at Marine Academy Plymouth under the charity’s Together for Childhood work in the city.

    Since lockdown, it is now being offered virtually on a one-to-one basis to more schools across the city for students aged between 9 and 13, including Tor Bridge High, Ernesettle Community School and Brook Green Centre for Learning.
    It offers targeted support for children and young person and tailored advice and guidance for parents and carers to help them manage screen time and routines during COVID-19.
    Strategic Service Centre Manager for the NSPCC in Plymouth Ollie Mackie said:

    “We know that there are some children and young people who may be at heightened risk of abuse online, and it is a priority of ours to help keep them safe.
    “In Ctrl is great for children and young people where there may be concerns about their emotional wellbeing as a result of adverse experiences they may have had or their current online activity. 
    “We are adapting the way in which we work to ensure we can support children and families who most need support to navigate the online world and this has become more pressing than ever while children are subject to social distancing measures.”

    Online sexual abuse can happen anywhere that allows digital communication, including social networks, text messages, messaging apps, email and online chats, as well as voice chat in games and comments on live streaming apps. 
    More than 200 online grooming crimes have been recorded by Devon & Cornwall Police under a new law that made it illegal to send sexual messages to children.

    The offence of sexual communication with a child came into force two and half years ago, following an NSPCC campaign.

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