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The Countess of Wessex has warned that online giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp present ‘new and very dangerous threats to our children’.

Sophie said that while the internet offered ‘positive opportunities’ to engage online, it also ‘enables predators to commit truly horrific abuse within what should be the sanctity and safety of a child’s own home’.

She added: ‘This abuse has devastating consequences and severe long-term repercussions on their mental health, family and future relationships, with many experiencing trauma and long-term behavioural problems, and all too many attempting [suicide].’

Prince Edward’s wife was speaking in her role as patron of the NSPCC at the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights in Brussels.

‘Online child sexual abuse and exploitation affects every country in the world and requires the strength and tenacity of us all to combat it,’ she told policymakers. ‘Additionally, it is no one person’s or organisation’s responsibility – it is all our responsibilities to seek ways to prevent these crimes being committed.’

The Countess of Wessex has warned that online giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp present ‘new and very dangerous threats to our children’

The Countess of Wessex has warned that online giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp present ‘new and very dangerous threats to our children’

The Countess of Wessex has warned that online giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp present ‘new and very dangerous threats to our children’

The countess highlighted the case of a 14-year-old boy she called ‘Ben’ who attempted suicide after a man he met on Facebook posed as a girl and blackmailed him into sending explicit photos.

She also referenced the case of a 13-year-old girl who was groomed by a married man in his 30s, first through Facebook and later via WhatsApp.

He also manipulated her into sending explicit photographs of herself – leading to huge psychological trauma.

The countess highlighted the case of a 14-year-old boy she called ‘Ben’ who attempted suicide after a man he met on Facebook posed as a girl and blackmailed him into sending explicit photos

The countess highlighted the case of a 14-year-old boy she called ‘Ben’ who attempted suicide after a man he met on Facebook posed as a girl and blackmailed him into sending explicit photos

The countess highlighted the case of a 14-year-old boy she called ‘Ben’ who attempted suicide after a man he met on Facebook posed as a girl and blackmailed him into sending explicit photos

Pointing out that 65 per cent of children in western Europe had experienced online sexual harm, the countess added: ‘That is well over half of our children who have been targeted and affected by these crimes.

‘If they faced this level of risk every time they stepped outside into the physical world, I ask you, would we allow that to go unchallenged?’

She called on social media companies to balance the ‘fundamental rights of all internet users’ with children’s rights and called on them to create spaces where young people can ‘freely and safely use online services that are fundamentally safe by design’.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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