We have previously raised concerns about the dangers of self-generated sexual imagery created by children and young people. It can be scary and confusing, especially if a child loses control of an imagesHere, we help define this issue and give you some top tips on supporting children and young people by keeping control of images.  

What is Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material?

Self-generated child sexual abuse material (also referred to as self-generated sexually explicit material) can be understood as naked or semi-naked images or videos created by a child or young person depicting sexual activityThese may be shared consensually at first, then forwarded onto or obtained maliciously by offenders who will coerce and/or groom children online. While this affects all ages and genders, it is prevalent in young girls aged 11-13. 

  • A new report published by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has revealed a disturbing rise in online child sex offenders coercing and grooming children into filming their own sexual abuse 

  • Self-generated child abuse material obtained via online grooming and/or coercion has risen 77%. This now accounts for half of all imagery which IWF analysts took action on last year  

  • new study published by the IWF has found that online child sex offenders are manipulating and tricking children online to involve siblings and/or friends in this form of self-generated child sex abuse imagery  

  • Referrals from the public and industry reached record highs during the peak months of the pandemic  

  • Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) has been detected at record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic within Europe. US authorities have warned of a 106% increase across the world  

  • Offenders are likely to use existing images of children and young people to extort children and young people into sharing more of their own abuse, by threatening to share the victim’s images with their social networks  

What to do if you’re worried a child or young person has shared an image online

It’s helpful to have a clear understanding of what you can do if a child or young person in your care loses control of an image before it happens. You might want to talk to the children in your care about who they would talk to if they were worried about something online. You might have heard ‘what goes online stays online’ – this is not true. There is always something that can be done, and statements like these can remove all sense of hope from a vulnerable child.  

Taking Back Control

Here are some practical steps you can use if a child tells you that they have lost control of an image:  

  • Support the child in your care by helping them understand what’s happened. Thank them for telling you and calmly explain that there are some steps you can take together to ask for the image to be removed  

  • You should encourage the child to seek support from Childline, who can explain the process to them. Adults can speak to the NSPCC Adults Helpline for support  

  • Try to gather a list of where the image has appeared or who has received it  

  • Adults can make an online report to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) or contact the local police force for support if they have concerns a child is being groomed or sexually abused online  

  • Adults can also report the URL of images for removal directly to the Internet Watch Foundation  

  • Always save the URL instead of the image. It is important not copy or send the image to anyone, even the police – the image will constitute an indecent image of a child and should not be shared or saved.

  • Young people can upload their own image or URL to the Internet Watch Foundation’s Portal via their Childline account for removal  

  • If you have concerns about the immediate safety of a child, you should call 999 (emergency number)

A URL is the web address for online content. This could be a video, image, post or a web page (like the one you’re reading this on!). There are different ways you can copy a URL to report it:

  • Click the URL at the top of a web browser window, select all of the text, right click and select ‘copy’
  • Right click an image and select “copy image address”
  • Click the three dots (…) on an Instagram post and select “Copy Link”

We hope this has given you a greater understanding of what self-generated images are, and how they can affect a child or young person. Make sure any young person in your care knows they can speak to you without judgement. It is important to remain calm and supportive. The well-being of a vulnerable child or young person is always the most important thing to protect, especially in a situation that can feel hopeless and scary. No matter what – there is always a solution. 

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