ChildLine Review – Under Pressure
In 2013/14 ChildLine counselled almost 300,000 children and young people who were worried and upset about a range of different issues. Out of these, 11,095 of the counselling sessions were about online abuse and safety. Whilst the majority of the contacts were about online bullying or social media there was a 168 per cent increase in contacts about online sexual abuse. Over half of counselling was with girls and three quarters of counselling was with 12-15 year-olds.
Their latest review, Under Pressure, outlines some of the key findings from these sessions:
- Pressures to send sexual messages or images. In October 2013 a ChildLine survey of 13-18 year olds revealed that 60 per cent of young people had been asked for a sexual image or video of themselves, 40 per cent had created an image or video of themselves, and a quarter had sent this to someone else. Many young people spoke about how they had been asked by someone they trusted, often a boyfriend, to send a sexual photo of themselves, and how they felt under pressure to comply, or didn’t know how to say no.
- Dangerous online relationships. These relationships were predominantly started on social networking and dating sites. Young people described how the person online made them feel wanted and special. This often led to young people being asked and pressured into sending explicit images and later finding it difficult to report or tell someone.
- Worries about what they are viewing online. ChildLine saw a 145 per cent increase in young people talking about exposure to online pornogrpahy, websites with harmful content or child abuse images. Their main concerns about viewing this content were: how their parents would react if they found out; thinking they were abnormal; the impact viewing pornography was having on intimate relationships; and whether they could be arrested for viewing pornography.
The report concludes by saying that many young people believed something like this wouldn’t happen to them as they felt they could stay in control of the situation and knew how to keep themselves safe online. As a result many resisted getting help as they felt embarrassed or blamed themselves.
“I met a guy on a dating site who I really got on with. We’d been talking for a while before he asked me to send him a picture. I agreed even though I knew the risks because I was stupid enough to trust him. It was such a mistake because he instantly changed towards me and I’ve felt really stressed that the photo might resurface since. I’ve not spoken to anyone about how down the situation’s getting me because I feel like I’ve only got myself to blame.” (Girl, Age Unknown)