19.2 Information Communication Technology

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Last updated in November 2023

Date of next review November 2026


See also -  Children who Harm Other Children 


For additional information please see:

CEOPS - Child Exploitation and Online Protection

Resources for parents and children - Think you know &  How to report a nude image online 

Police action in response to youth produced sexual imagery (sexting)

Note: ACPO now National Police Chief's Counci: ACPO Guidance on Young people who Post Self-Taken Indecent Images


Abusive Images


For the purposes of child protection, abusive images of children can be divided into:

  • Those which are unlawful (indecent or prohibited images of children) and 
  • Material, which although lawful, would give cause for concern and indicate that the person possessing it may pose a risk to children (also referred to as indicative images)

Abusive images material may be found in the possession of those who use it for personal use or distribute to others and this may include distribution to children. They may also be used as part of the grooming process with children during online contact with perpetrators. 

Unlawful Material


Legally, an abusive image of a child is defined by reference to an 'indecent photograph or image'. This is any indecent photograph of a child under the age of 18 years old.


The term 'image' includes film, copies of photographs or films, negatives, video tape, data stored on computers that can be converted into a photograph and 'pseudo-photographs' (images made by computers graphics, or other means, which appear to be a photograph). This also covers electronic images used by video phones, through live streaming and video games, and through texting.


It is for a court to decide what is 'indecent' by application of recognised standards of propriety.


Possession of such material is an offence. Taking, showing or distributing such material amounts to a more serious offence.


In addition, it is an offence for a person to be in possession of a prohibited image of a child, this can incLude drawings and cartoons. For more guidance see Legal guidance - indecent and prohibited images of children    

Lawful Material


Lawful material falls outside the above definition, but may involve children in an indecent or sexual context. This could include pictures, cartoons, literature or sound recordings e.g books, magazines, audio cassettes, tapes, CD's.  This police can provide advice generaly on matters of abusive images of chidren. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated content


Safeguarding and child protection are paramount concerns, particularly in the context of AI-generated content. Whilst AI has the potential to create realistic images, the law is clear that the issue lies in the sexualisation of such content. It is important to recognise that there is nothing inherently illegal about images of naked children (although they should encourage professional curiosity) , but when they are sexualised, it comes a serious offence. If the images are clearly computer generated then they would be prohibited images of children, if they appear photo realistic then they should be treated as Indecent images of children (IIOC). If practitioners know they are AI images (i.e not real children) but they are photo realistic, they should still be treated as IIOCs.


Detection of such content is challenging, often relying on AI applications to police their platforms. For advice and guidance on handling potential cases of AI generated sexual abuse images involving children, contact the Police Paedophile online Investigation Team on 01273 470101.


AI-generated content blurs ethical and legal boundaries. Rigorous oversight and collaboration between technology companies, law enforcement, and advocacy groups are vital. Empowering platforms with advanced detection tools is essential, but proactive education and awareness campaigns are equally crucial to prevent the creation and dissemination of harmful content. Strengthening legal frameworks to adapt to evolving AI technologies is an ongoing necessity to ensure the protection of children in the digital realm.  Vigilance and a multidimensional approach are key elements in the ongoing effort to safeguard children from the potential risks associated with AI-generated sexual abuse images.

Use of the Internet


It is a criminal offence for anyone aged 18 or over to intentionally communicate with a child under 16, where the person acts for a sexual purpose and the communication is sexual or intended to elicit a sexual response (not just if someone meets with a child). The offence applies to online and offline communication, including social media, e-mail, texts, letters, etc. This is designed to stop grooming before it starts.


Children may access indecent images of children through using apparently innocent words in an Internet search engine or in some case share them. In such cases these will be considered on a case by case basis as to whether or not a criminal investigation will be instigated.


The Internet is a significant tool in enabling access to and the distribution of abusive images of children. This can be done through various devices including mobile phones, text messaging, computers, and game consoles. It may be downloaded and printed off in picture form or stored electronically on the hard drive of a computer, CD/DVD, disc etc.


Some adults use it to establish contact with children with a view to grooming them for inappropriate or abusive relationships, which may include requests to make and distribute child abuse images of themselves or to perform sexual acts via web cam. This may be accomplished through social media, 'chat rooms', gaming sites, discussion forums or contact by e-mail and may constitute an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.


Parents may wish to seek advice from their Internet service provider about software programmes to limit access to sites that may be unsuitable for children. Resources for parents and children - Think you know


All forms of Child exploitation occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18. The victim may have been exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Child exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology. Further information and guidance is available by clicking here.   



Parents should inform police if they are aware that a child has been the recipient of any suspicious contact through the internet or in receipt of abusive images, as described above.


Police must be informed of any information that a person may be in possession of abusive images of children or have placed / accessed abusive images of children on the internet.


Any information that a child may have been inappropriately contacted or approached, directly or via the internet, should also be passed to the police.


The police can provide advice generally on matters of abusive images of children to other agencies.


Whenever the police are informed of concerns that an individual may be involved in the creation, distribution or possession of abusive images of children, consideration must be given to the possibility that the individual might also be involved in the active abuse of children and her/his access to children should be established, including family and work settings.


Where there are concerns about a child being groomed, exposed to pornographic material or contacted by someone inappropriately, via the Internet or other ICT tools like a mobile phone, referrals should be made to the Police and to Children's Social Care, using the Making a Referral Procedure.


All referrals to Children's Social Care will be followed by a  Family Assessment (also referred to a Child and Family Assessment or Strengthening Families Assessment) and information should be shared between the Police and Children's Social Care in order to determine whether a Strategy Discussion should take place.


Where appropriate, the Allegations Against People who Work with, Care for or Volunteer with Children Procedure should be followed.



 If it is suspected a child is being exploited and is a victim of modern slavery a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) referral must be made - 

Making a referral  

Strategy Discussion


The Police must inform Children's Social Care and a Strategy Discussion held whenever it is suspected that a parent or carer of children or someone with access to children in other context(s) e.g. employment:

  • Is in possession of child abusive images of children; and/or
  • Has taken, shown or distributed child abusive images of children; and/or
  • Has used the internet to make inappropriate approaches to children.

The Strategy Discussion must consider all access the individual has to children.


The Strategy Discussion must initiate a Section 47 enquiry whenever it is confirmed that a parent or carer of child(ren), or someone with access to child(ren) has been involved in the activities listed above.


Where appropriate, the Allegations Against People who Work with, Care for or Volunteer with Children Procedure should be followed.

This page is correct as printed on Tuesday 16th of July 2024 08:11:33 AM please refer back to this website (http://sussexchildprotection.procedures.org.uk) for updates.