Sophie Wessex makes secret trip abroad ahead of Christmas break

Sophie Wessex makes secret trip abroad ahead of Christmas break

> The Countess of Wessex delivered a keynote speech in Belgium in her role as patron of the NSPCC

The Countess of Wessex travelled to Belgium on Tuesday to deliver a powerful keynote speech about making the internet a safer place for children and young people.

In her role as patron of the NSPCC, Sophie spoke at a European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights event in Brussels.

The Countess urged tech firms and politicians to rededicate their efforts to “ensure that the internet is a place of safety for all”.

Sophie shared the harrowing story of a 14-year-old boy who tried to take his own life after being blackmailed into sending explicit images of himself, or his parents would be killed.

She also described how a 13-year-old girl was groomed over social media into a five-year online relationship with a married man in his thirties, who manipulated her into sharing explicit photos.

Speaking about her visit to Belgium’s Child Focus, which works to protect children both physically and online, the Countess said she had seen “persistent evidence that young people are being abused and are suffering unimaginable mental anguish and terror online”.

The royal mother-of-two also highlighted that the pandemic had led to a greater rise in online child exploitation and abuse.

The Queen’s daughter-in-law called on tech firms to use innovation to take every reasonable step to “design out” harm and detect and report abuse on messaging services.

Sir Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “The Countess’s speech today was a timely and crucial contribution about the need for bold action and international coordination in the urgent fight against online child abuse.

“This is a challenge that can be solved, if governments and the tech industry commit the focus and resources required to meet the scale of the threat.”

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