Coerced online child sexual abuse
Helping parents and carers keep their children safer online
surveyed girls* have had some kind of experience of receiving a request for nude or semi-nude photos or videos
Children can be groomed, coerced or encouraged into sexual activities online. This is known as self-generated child sexual abuse content, or first person produced images and videos. It’s where sexual images or videos of children are captured via a webcam or camera-enabled device. There is no physical presence of the abuser and the child is often in their own bedroom or bathroom. Whilst these images can be the product of grooming, blackmail and coercion, they could have also been originally voluntarily produced by the child, but then shared with others without the child’s full knowledge or consent. Any child with unsupervised access to the internet is potentially at risk.
Best practices for parents and carers: Use the TALK checklist to keep your child safe online
TALK to your child about online sexual abuse
There will never be an ‘ideal’ time to talk about online child sexual abuse, but make sure you’re having open conversations with your child without judgement or shame. Pick your moment, but don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ age or time. Be honest, in an age-appropriate way and remember that when you speak to your child, whatever they tell you, never imply that they are responsible or to blame if someone asks them to share, or they already have shared, sexual material. Here you can find some useful conversation starters.
Having a family contract or agreement sets out some expectations of how everyone can go online positively and safely. Being involved in setting the rules will help your child feel that their opinion matters. It’s also crucial that adults follow the rules as well, and act as role models. You can find a template for a family agreement from Childnet here.
LEARN about the platforms your child uses
Showing your child that you are interested in what they are doing online in a positive and open way will encourage them to share what they are doing and come to you when something wrong happens. You can also use some of the same apps that your child does; follow one another and ask and share suggestions of who else to follow.
KNOW how to use safety tools, apps and settings
Discuss and agree on privacy settings for the platforms and apps your child uses, and on more general settings for the family. Make sure you explain to your child why you prefer particular controls, or why you might restrict use of a particular app. You can also recap on safety features that children are taught in school (primary as well as secondary) by asking them to tell you more about it.
Resources and useful links
Family agreement template from Childnet, to start a conversation about how to use use the internet.
Talk PANTS is a simple conversation starter to help keep young children safe from sexual abuse.
Report on digital relationships today for young people
Read Internet Matters’ Look At Me – Teens, Sexting and Risks Report.
*Findings from baseline survey report commissioned by the Internet watch Foundation to the agency Zinc Network to understand how parents, carers and teenage girls react to and deal with the issue of self-generated online child sexual abuse, conducted prior the launch of two awareness raising campaigns by the IWF, directed to these audiences.
IWF launches ‘It can happen in any home’, the latest podcast episode of Pixels from a Crime Scene
The new podcast episode explores the growing threat of coerced ‘self-generated’ child sexual abuse material.
IWF data shows 20,000 webpages included coerced ‘self-generated’ sexual abuse imagery of 7- to 10-year-olds in first half of 2022
When compared to the first half of 2020, the increase in this type of content depicting 7–10-year-olds children is of…
IWF campaign launches as new report finds girls at worsening risk of grooming from sexual predators online
A hard-hitting new IWF campaign, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, is warning teenage girls and their parents…
Frequently asked questions on coerced online child sexual abuse
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