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Barnardo's calls for greater Net protection for children

Child abuse fears

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Children's charity Barnardo's has called for more cash and a greater commitment on the part of government to protect children from sexual exploitation.

A hard-hitting new report, Just One Click, calls on governments not to abandon victims of paedophile activity whose "torture is broadcast around the world via the Internet and mobile phones".

In particular, it wants to see the creation of a Centre of Excellence in the UK to focus on protecting children who have been abused via technologies such as the Internet.

In the report, published today, Barnardo's highlights the cases of more than 80 children who have been victims of Net-related abuse.

The single largest group of children were those whose abuse was photographed and uploaded to the internet. Many of these were in their early teens, but the charity warns that images of much younger children are increasingly appearing online.

Barnardo's is concerned that the widespread availability of camera phones is making the taking and distribution of child abuse images even easier.

While the technology is fast becoming commonplace throughout the UK, it is also proving to be an invaluable tool for abusers, said the report.

"Not only are abusers able to advertise children on the web, distribute abusive images of children and record live sexually abusive acts but they can also cloak themselves in anonymity and pretend to be, for example, an innocent 16-year-old looking for friendship and love," said the report.

The report's author, Tink Palmer, Barnardo's Principal Policy Officer and a member of the Internet Watch Foundation board, said: "What worries us most is that evidence is evolving that the children are getting younger, the abuse more severe and the settings more everyday.

"The children are forced to live with the fact that millions could have seen their abuse – yet the Government has yet to fund any specialist programmes to help them and their families put their lives back together."

Last week, 16 countries took part in a pan-European Safer Internet Day which called for a co-ordinated campaign to defend "children's right to a safer Internet". ®

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