Children and young people in Wales will receive additional support to protect them from a rise in online threats, as the Welsh Government – through the Hwb digital learning programme – becomes the first Government body to join child protection charity the Internet Watch Foundation as Members.
As part of National Safeguarding Week, the IWF – the UK charity responsible for finding and removing child sexual abuse material from the internet – today (Friday, November 19) has announced the Welsh Government’s Digital Learning Division as a new Member.
The IWF will work alongside partners in the Welsh Government to ensure their Hwb platform, which hosts the Curriculum for Wales and provides bilingual, digital tools and resources for teaching and learning to all maintained schools in Wales, is as safe as possible.
The platform will also aim to empower children and young people in Wales to spot the signs of online grooming and exploitation with dedicated support pages, including bilingual materials from the IWF’s Gurls Out Loud and Home Truths campaigns.
The campaigns were launched in response to rising numbers of reports of child sexual abuse material online, where children had been groomed, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves.
It is hoped the bilingual materials and articles from experts in ‘Keeping safe online’ on Hwb will have a huge impact in helping spread the warning about the growing online threats and help more children and young people stay safe.
Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language said: “I am very proud that Hwb has partnered with the IWF, making the Welsh Government the first government body to join their global membership community, and support them in continuing to help victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
“To amplify the message that online grooming is a serious risk, and one we must tackle together, we are also working with the IWF to promote their two flagship online grooming prevention campaigns – Gurls Out Loud and Home Truths.
“I look forward to working alongside the IWF in tackling such threats against children and young people online.”
Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “Sadly, since lockdown, we have seen online threats against children and young people spiral. The internet has enormous potential for good, and has been an indispensable lifeline for children to learn, socialise, and stay in touch with friends and family.
“But it is also abused by unscrupulous predators. It is essential we all do everything we can to make sure children are aware of the potential dangers, and that criminals are found out and exposed.
“This is why partnerships like this are so important. By working with the Welsh Government, we can help make sure more children are kept safe online, and we can ensure the right tools, skills, and resources are available so that children and young people can be confident in calling out abusive behaviour when they see it.”
The Welsh Government joins the IWF at a critical time. In 2020, IWF analysts dealt with a record number of reports of online child sexual abuse material, while the coronavirus crisis has seen more people than ever relying on the internet to learn, work, and socialise.
To find out more about the work of the IWF visit https://www.iwf.org.uk/what-we-do
Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en