Behind the headlines

The government has launched a major public awareness campaign to
alert parents and young people to the dangers of paedophiles using
the internet to prey on children. The move is part of a £3m
campaign spearheaded by the Home Office task force on child
protection on the internet. It coincides with a warning from the
children’s charity NCH that there has been a huge explosion of
child pornography on the net in the past 10 years. The charity
argues that downloading such images can act as a trigger to make
men sexually abuse children.

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“We need to work with mobile phone and IT companies to plan ways to
protect children. Having said that, I cannot see the clear evidence
which points to the internet causing an explosion of abuse; it has,
however, provided more opportunity for circulating abusive material
and parents need to be vigilant. It’s also important that charities
don’t spin and scaremonger as a means of raising their profile and
fundraising. I found the publicity over this and the way the media
reported it quite confused and misleading.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“Child pornography is not a trigger of child abuse. It is child
abuse. From Japan, we already know 3G phones will increase
exponentially the already significant risks to children and young
people from the internet. Home Office task forces, awareness
campaigns, phone company self-regulation, fitting filters to block
under 18s’ access to pornographic sites – these will only scratch
the surface unless it is part of increased international efforts
against the cruelty, abuse and abduction of children and young

Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and

“There are grave concerns about the use of the internet by people
who are preying on children and it is right that there should be
safeguards. But this issue needs to be kept in proportion and more
emphasis needs to be placed on the role of parents in policing
their children’s use of the internet and mobile phones. There is a
growing tendency to develop laws and increase controls rather than
remind people of their own personal responsibilities.”

Karen Squillino, children’s services manager,
“The use of the word ‘paedophile’ is not at all helpful.
We know that children and young people are most likely to be
sexually harmed by someone they know. In using language such as
‘paedophile’ it conjures an image of a stranger who preys on
children and this in turn creates a them-and-us approach to child
protection. Families and communities need to be made more aware of
how they can help prevent abuse of children through protective
behaviour programmes. Closing chat rooms is not the answer.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“Children are much more ‘net savvy’ than any adults making laws
about the internet. Banning won’t work – adults can exploit this
amazing technological development to get round anything. The
challenge is to combine safeguards for children with education on
how to keep themselves safe. But we should also get a sense of the
real dangers – children are still at most risk from people they
know and trust – families, their friends and neighbours.”

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