The fast pace of technological advances has left local authorities ‘playing catch-up’ in their attempts to crack down on child sexual abuse, experts have warned.
New research found that young victims of sexual abuse may not be getting the right protection or support because training for child workers has not kept pace with technological advances.
A survey of children’s services, health and education workers across England revealed a black hole in the knowledge and capabilities of professionals charged with helping children who have been abused through the internet.
Professor of social responsibility in IT at Plymouth University, Andy Phippen, said: ‘This shocking research demonstrates that while the internet has become a positive influence on many people’s lives, there are still those who use it in a negative and sinister fashion.
‘The fast pace of its development has, in many cases, left the authorities playing catch-up and while some now have policies in place, a huge amount of work is required to ensure those affected by online abuse receive the correct support.’
The British Association of Social Workers said ‘unwieldy’ IT systems used by local authorities made it difficult to track suspected abuse, with staff banned from using websites such as Facebook.