Abusers hit half of child surfers
MORE than half of children using the internet have had an "unwanted experience" online as the trend of using social networking sites increases, a new poll revealed today.
The survey for the NSPCC found 50.4% of children had such an experience, which could mean anything from being bullied or threatened to being asked to perform sexual acts.
The revelation follows the jailing last week of pervert teacher Anthony Mulhall who preyed on girls across the north - including a 14-year-old from Huddersfield - after meeting them on the internet.
More than half of children (52%) now use sites like Bebo and MySpace at least once a day, according to the poll, heightening their exposure to those who abuse them for their own ends.
The top reason cited by young people for logging on to the sites was to make new friends (89%) and to link up with people they already knew (79%).
But the survey for children's charity the NSPCC also showed almost 60% of children resort to them to stop themselves feeling alone and 53% use them to share their problems.
The findings of the online poll of 2,053 children mostly aged between 11 to 16 are revealed today, as this year's Don't Hide It campaign is launched.
NSPCC director and chief executive Dame Mary Marsh said: "Children face real threats on the internet such as sexual grooming, cyber-bullying, exposure to violent, pornographic and other unsuitable material and being lured into dangerous real-world situations.
"Online social networking is part of millions of children's lives.
"We must recognise and respond to this reality by helping them be safer online as well as helping them speak out about abuse at the same time."
Children worried about abuse are advised to speak to someone they can trust, phone ChildLine on 0800 1111 or visit the special website www.donthideit.com for more information.