Young people's helpline more than doubled its counselling sessions last year
ChildLine has more than doubled the amount of counselling sessions undertaken with children using its services over the past year, new figures have revealed.
The charity said it carried out 2,842 sessions across the UK – more than double the number it carried out the previous year.
In Scotland ChildLine, which is run by the NSPCC, counselled 524 young people from its two bases in Aberdeen and Glasgow but said this figure is just the tip of the iceberg.
Many of the issues dealt with by the charity concern sexual abuse – a rising problem due to the prevalence of social media and digital technology.
Elaine Chalmers, area manager for ChildLine in Scotland, said: “The likelihood is that these figures are a drop in the ocean because groomed child victims often do not report abuse, and many young people don’t even recognise what they’re experiencing as illegal,” she said.
It’s vital that we encourage children and young people to talk about what they do online
“It’s vital that we encourage children and young people to talk about what they do online and who they communicate with.
"The risks involved in online contact are heightened in cases where children and young people feel they have to keep their experiences secret.
“Where you uncover inappropriate contact with a child you must report it – for every instance we know about, there may be many more children at risk.”
It comes as the NSPCC launched a new campaign, Flaw in the Law, to make it illegal for adults to send sexual messages to children.
There have been reported convictions of adults in Scotland for communicating sexually with children under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.
Currently, it is not an offence in England and Wales for someone over 18 to send a person under 16 a sex text, email or instant message.
However, the NSPCC believes that under the current law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is unlikely that similar cases would have led to a criminal prosecution, unless the abuse had escalated.