The number of people accessing self-help resources to prevent child abuse has tripled during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Stop it Now! Scotland reported the number of people visiting the get help section of its website jumped from 60 in the four weeks prior to launch of a new campaign – #GetHelpOrGetCaught – on April 14 to 185 in the four weeks after.
The website offers resources for people who are worried about their own actions as well as advice for people concerned about child sexual abuse.
Stuart Allardyce, director of Stop It Now! Scotland, said: “We know that outwith the lockdown thousands of people across Scotland are viewing and sharing sexual images of under 18s and that the grooming of children and young people online is a problem within Scotland.
“In a time when internet usage is up and more people are staying at home, this number begins to grow and the risk to children grows with it.
“For those with worrying thoughts, feelings or behaviours towards children, particularly online, their coping mechanisms and strategies become even more limited in a time where many people are not going out to work or socialise.”
More than 79,000 people across Scotland viewed the Stop It Now! Scotland website in recent months.
Offences relating to child sexual abuse continue to rise, with 1,694 recorded in Scotland between April 2019 and February 2020, compared to 1,573 over the same period in 2018-19.
Assistant chief constable Duncan Sloan, lead for major crime and public protection at Police Scotland, said: “Lockdown guidelines remain firmly in place across Scotland including physical distancing and advice to stay at home.
“People are online much more than usual and that increases the potential threat posed by online predators.”
He added: “There may be various reasons why more people are accessing Stop It Now! Scotland’s Get Help pages, including the launch of our campaign.
“It is clear, however, that not only is awareness of the threat of online child sexual abuse increasing but so too is awareness that help is available to prevent offending.
“We will continue to prioritise tackling online child abuse through identifying offenders and by preventing children becoming victims of online predators.”