News: UK Police Investigate 2,000 Children for Online Abuse

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

Almost 2,000 children in the UK have been investigated by police in the last three years for breaking laws used to crack down on social media abuse, offensive Twitter messages and online bullying, according to Sky News.

The figures show that children as young as nine are among more than 1,200 who have then been charged with a criminal offence or given a caution, warning or fine.

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

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.

While the number of children being investigated for online abuse is rising, the proportion of children using social networks is falling.

According to Ofcom research, 35% of 5-15 year olds have an active social networking profile – down from 42% in 2011 and 43% in 2012.

Full story, and news story via Sky News.



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