New report finds girls at worsening risk of grooming from sexual predators online

New analysis in the IWF’s annual report* shows 11-13-year-old girls are increasingly at risk of grooming and coercion at the hands of online predators.

A new analysis released today (April 21) in the Internet Watch Foundation’s (IWF) annual report shows the growing risk of children, particularly girls aged 11-13, being targeted by criminal sex predators.
Predators groom, bully and coerce their victims into filming their own sexual abuse on internet-enabled devices, often in the child’s own bedrooms in their family homes. The images and videos of this abuse are then shared widely online.
IWF experts, who work internationally to find and remove child sexual abuse material from the internet, warn this abuse now, for the first time, makes up almost half of what they are finding online.
The IWF’s annual report reveals:

  • In 2020, the IWF confirmed 68,000 cases of self-generated imagery. It now accounts for nearly half (44%) of the imagery IWF took action on last year (IWF analysts confirmed 153,350 reports of child sexual abuse material in total).
  • This is a 77% increase on 2019’s total of 38,400 reports which included “self-generated” material.
  • New analysis shows in 80% of these cases, the victims were 11- to 13-year-old girls.

Now, a hard-hitting IWF campaign, backed by the UK Home Office and Microsoft, is aiming to empower girls, and warn parents, about the “dire” risks posed by online predators targeting children.
Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “The scale of the problem is appalling, and our fear is without intervention it will get worse, and more and more girls will fall victim to this pernicious and manipulative form of abuse.

“This is a pivotal time. With more people spending more time online, predators are finding new ways to contact and manipulate children who are, in many cases, a captive audience at home with their devices. Lockdown has made this worse.

“Some of the campaign is shocking. But the threat and the abuse is shocking. We don’t want to frighten people, but we do want to build resilience to the threat of self-generated sexual abuse of children. We want to help teenage girls to recognise the actions that constitute self-generated sexual abuse as abuse.

“We want them to feel empowered to take control, and to understand how to deal with inappropriate requests and report them to a trusted source.”

Should you wish to learn more about this topic and for advice, visit our Online Grooming and Sexting Hub.

Read the full annual report* at
Find out more about the Girls campaign at

Conversations to have with teens about nudes & sexting document

With concerns raised about how social media and tech plays a role in teens sharing images, our Internet Matters expert panel provide their advice on teens and sexting, sending and sharing nudes.

Girl peaking through her hands

Read more

2020 Cybersurvey Sexting Report document

View our latest report ‘Look at me – Teens, sexting and risks’ in collaboration with Youthworks, on sexting.

Look at me image

Read report

Recent posts