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Online Abuse: Police Deal With Thousands Of Kids

Online Abuse: Police Deal With Thousands Of Kids
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5:50am 29th May 2014
(Updated 5:50am 29th May 2014)

More than 2,000 children have been investigated by police in the last three years over social media abuse and online bullying.

New figures show children as young as nine are among more than 1,300 who have then been charged with a criminal offence or given a caution, warning or fine.

It is after Pirate FM told you across Cornwall and Devon sixteen hundred offences involved Facebook and Twitter last year, including robbery and rape.

The latest investigation by Sky News also found almost 20,000 adults were the subject of police probes for these offences, the equivalent of around 20 cases a day.

And the number of cases is on the rise - up more than 5% since 2011.

The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, lay bare for the first time how policing the internet has become a daily task for Britain's forces.

And as 18 of the UK's police forces failed to provide figures, the true number of investigations is likely to be much greater.

They include a series of high-profile prosecutions in recent years of people accused of posting abuse on Twitter.

Ellie, a teenage victim of online harassment who reported her case to police, told Sky News she thought the figures were "shocking".

She said she suffered death threats and comments about her family on social media.

"They stalked me and knew a lot about me," she said.

"I drove at the time and where I used to live there's a little bridge. And within hours of driving over it, there was a comment saying you should have crashed your car over the bridge you drove over.

"With bullying that happens at school, people can get away from it at home. For me, this literally followed me everywhere I went."

Sky News asked police forces how many investigations they had launched in the last three years under Section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act, which covers abuse on Twitter or other social media sites, in text messages or through nuisance phone calls.

New guidance issued last year raised the threshold for prosecution, but experts say the rise in the number of cases despite the stricter definition is the result of easy internet access via smartphones.

According to responses from 34 police forces, 6,919 people were investigated in 2011/12 under Section 127, including 744 children.

In 2012/13, 6,974 cases were probed including 578 under-18s. After the first nine months of 2013/14, those figures had already hit 7,318 and 610 respectively.

Over the three years, 1,932 children were investigated and 1,203 were either charged with a criminal offence, fined, cautioned or warned verbally. Of the 19,279 adults investigated over that period, 11,292 were subject to police action.

Hertfordshire Police investigated and charged the most people in 2013 - 1,042, up from 291 in 2011. The Metropolitan Police had the highest three-year figure, 2,099.

Four 10-year-olds and one nine-year-old in Tayside were given warnings by police.

Luke Roberts, a social network expert at Beat Bullying, told Sky News: "There are more devices than ever. So whether it's smartphones, internet-connected TVs, more apps - they allow more young people to be harassed than ever before.

"In terms of social networking, we'd like to see more transparency, in terms of giving clear reporting mechanisms to children."

What To Do If You Are Being Bullied...

Don't Ignore it - Bullies do not tend to go away on their own and it may get worse. Remember that it is not your fault and is not something that you have to put up with.

Tell Someone - It could be a teacher, a parent or another adult that you trust. You can ask your mates to look out for you too.

Keep a Record - They are horrible, but keep any texts, emails or notes you get sent. That way it will be more difficult for the bully to deny it.

5:50am 29th May 2014

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