A service in Plymouth run by the NSPCC, which helps prevent online child sexual abuse, is expanding.

The news comes as more than 200 online grooming crimes have been recorded by Devon & Cornwall Police in the last two and a half years.

The charity's 'In Ctrl' service launched at the start of the year.

It offers targeted support for school children to understand healthy and unhealthy relationships, while also offering tailored guidance for carers to help them manage children's screen time amid the pandemic.

Children in the city are spending more time online due to home-schooling and social distancing restrictions. Credit: PA Images

The free service will now be offered virtually on a one-to-one basis to more schools across Plymouth for students aged between nine and thirteen.

As part of the service children and young people will work with NSPCC staff to explore themes such as boundaries, pressure and expectation online, self-care, body image, and sexting.

Strategic Service Centre Manager for the NSPCC in Plymouth Ollie Mackie said: “We are worried that there could be a higher increase in these types of offences this year because of the additional threats caused by coronavirus.

The In Ctrl service is designed to offer a safe space to children, young people and their carers to promote learning, build understanding of risk and increase resilience, in their online and offline worlds.

Ollie Mackie, Strategic Service Centre Manager for the NSPCC in Plymouth
The service will look to help carers feel more confident about supporting children's online activity. Credit: NSPCC

Superintendent Roy Linden, Chair of the Plymouth Safeguarding Children Partnership, added: “In these unprecedented times, we know everyone is spending more time at home and using social media to ensure that social distancing does not become social isolation.

The positive power of technology keeps our children, young people and families connected but we also know that more time spent online by our children and young people can lead to greater levels of risk.

Superintendent Roy Linden, Chair of the Plymouth Safeguarding Children Partnership
Credit: NSPCCC

The service provides additional support for parents and carers to explore their worries and concerns and provide them with guidance to help them feel more confident supporting children with their online activity.

Any adult concerned about the welfare of a child or young person can call the NSPCC helpline for free and confidential advice on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk

Children can contact Childline for free on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk , and speak to a counsellor about a worry or concern they may have.