Northern Ireland

Childline: 160 NI children call with online abuse concerns

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Media captionChildline: Teenager speaks out about online grooming

More than 160 children in Northern Ireland called Childline last year, concerned about online sexual abuse.

There is increasing worry about internet grooming, due to the growth in the use of webcams and 'apps' that allow people to chat online.

Childline received 4,896 calls from Northern Ireland last year - sexual abuse accounted for 275 calls (5.6%).

The charity held 164 counselling sessions over online sex abuse with young people from Northern Ireland.

Neil Anderson, head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland, said: "Most of us talk to people online and it's a great way to stay connected and make new friends.

"But it can be a playground for paedophiles, exposing young people to groomers who trawl social networks and online game forums exploiting any vulnerabilities they may find."

New figures from the NSPCC show:

  • a UK-wide 21% rise in calls to the child-helpline in the past year about grooming
  • most of the calls were from children aged 12-15
  • almost two-thirds were girls
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Image caption Childline is launching a new campaign - Listen To Your Selfie - aimed at helping young people recognise the signs of grooming

To help combat the problem, Childline is launching a new campaign - Listen To Your Selfie - aimed at helping young people recognise the signs of grooming and unhealthy relationships, both online and offline.

Childline founder Esther Rantzen said: "Online grooming is a real risk. Very often young people tell us of their feelings of shame because they don't recognise that they are not to blame.

"One young person who had been persuaded to send explicit pictures of herself told us 'I walked myself into this mess, I couldn't ask for help'.

"We want children and young people to know that Childline is there for them, whatever their worry, to answer any questions and offer support and advice."

Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.

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