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Unwanted sexual contact

Unwanted sexual contact

Children and young people can communicate with people online who they don’t know, or have not met, in real life. While being in contact with new people can be exciting, the anonymity offered by the internet can allow these new contacts to cover their true identities. For example, someone who says they are a 10 year-old girl could actually be a 40 year-old man. This anonymity means that sexual solicitation and online grooming can occur online and are serious risks.

 

Sexual solicitation is where someone is asked to engage in a sexual conversation or activity or to send a sexually explicit image or information.

Online grooming and procuring of children over the internet is the illegal act of an adult or adults making online contact with a child under the age of sixteen with the intention of facilitating a sexual relationship.

Risk of unwanted sexual contact

Children and young people may increase the risk of unwanted sexual contact in the following ways.

  1. Posting provocative photos and messages or using provocative screen names. Many children think they are being mature or funny when using sexually provocative language and images and don’t consider that some undesirable people may be attracted to their information.
  2. Posting personal information on publicly accessible websites. For example, if children post their full name, address or school/workplace on a social networking website without using the privacy controls, this can be seen by many people that they will not know. Many children aren’t aware of the risks in sharing their personal information publicly, so are happy to make all their information visible.
  3. Accepting contacts or ‘friends’ that they don’t know on social networking websites or gaming websites. By accepting these people they allow strangers to access their personal information and images. These contacts may be harmless, but they may also be looking to establish a relationship with the child with a sexual purpose in mind.
  4. Engaging in social networking or gaming sites designed for teens or adults. This can increase the likelihood of them being contacted by older teens or adults for sexual purposes.

The following practical tips are provided to help parents manage the risks of unwanted sexual contact with young children, older children and teenagers.

Young Children

Some adults befriend children online for sexual purposes. This is called grooming. It is illegal and should be reported to police. In many cases police can prosecute adults seeking children for sexual purposes even if they haven’t made face to face contact with a child.

Young children generally won’t be using websites that enable direct interaction with others without supervision. The following general tips will help manage who can contact your child online and their responses to inappropriate contact.

  1. At this age children’s internet use should be closely monitored. To help with this try to keep the computer in a shared or visible place in the home.
  2. Be aware of how your child uses the internet and explore it with them. Bookmark a list of ‘Favourites’ you are comfortable with your child visiting and teach them how to access this list.
  3. If your child is at an age where you have begun educating them about strangers and protecting their body it may be useful to expand those lessons to cover online. The appropriate age for this education will vary and is a decision for you and your family.
  4. If you are educating your child about their body and keeping it safe it may be useful to make a rule about what is and isn’t okay to discuss on the computer and what should be reported to you or a trusted adult. For example, one rule might be ‘if anyone asks you about your underwear or ‘private parts’ when you are on the computer get Mum to check that what they are saying are okay’.
  5. Another good rule is for your child to report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or funny in their tummy.
  6. If your child shows changes in behaviour or mood that are concerning including increased or decreased sexualised behaviours, clinginess or withdrawal explore your concerns with them and if necessary seek professional support

Older Children

Some adults befriend children online for sexual purposes. This is called grooming. It is illegal and should be reported to police. In many cases police can prosecute adults seeking children for sexual purposes even if they haven’t made face to face contact with a child.

Older children may become more interested in websites and gaming sites that enable direct interaction with others including teens and adults. The following tips can help to protect your child against unwanted sexual contact.

  1. At this age children’s internet use should be closely monitored. To help with this try to keep the computer in a shared or visible place in the home.
  2. Explore your child’s favourite websites. In general it is useful to consider whether you are comfortable with the content of the sites and the potential for contact with others including teens and adults. Is your child socially ready to manage contact from potentially ill meaning strangers?
  3. If you agree to your child accessing sites which may allow direct contact with others consider establishing rules about the amount of information they can provide, including not providing their surname, address or school, and not uploading or SMSing images or videos without parental permission.
  4. If your child is at an age where you have begun educating them about strangers and protecting their body it may be useful to expand those lessons to cover online contact.
  5. The appropriate age for this education will vary and is a decision for you and your family.
  6. It may be useful to make a rule about what is and isn’t okay to discuss on the computer and what should be reported to you or a trusted adult. For example, one rule might be ‘if anyone asks you about your underwear or ‘private parts’ when you are on the computer get Mum to check that what they are saying is okay’.
  7. Some children feel worried about their parent’s reaction to things they may have said or done online and this can prevent them reporting genuine concerns. Perpetrators play on this worry and shame to isolate children. To overcome this reassure your child that they can always safely tell you that they feel uncomfortable or worried about what somebody has been saying to them and what they might have been saying and doing in response.
  8. If your child shows changes in behaviour or mood that are concerning including increased or decreased sexualised behaviours, clinginess or withdrawal explore your concerns with them and if necessary seek professional support.

Teenagers

Some adults befriend children online for sexual purposes. This is called grooming. It is illegal and should be reported to police. In many cases police can prosecute adults seeking children for sexual purposes even if they haven’t made face to face contact with a child.

 

Many teens use sites that allow them to directly interact with people they don’t know offline. There is a risk that the individuals teens connect with may not be who they claim to be, or that they intend to establish a sexual relationship with your teen. The following tips can help guide your teen’s behaviour and help keep them safe from unwanted sexual contact.

  1. Stays involved in your teen’s use of new technologies—keep up to date with the websites they are visiting and explore them with your teen if possible. In general it is useful to consider whether you are comfortable with the content of the sites and the potential for contact with others including adults.
  2. Remind your teen to create screen names or IDs that do not indicate gender, age, name or location and are not sexually provocative.
  3. Guide your teen to use their privacy settings to restrict their online information to viewing by known friends only.
  4. Encourage your teen to keep their online friends online. If they want to meet someone that they haven’t met in person encourage them to ask a parent or another trusted adult to go with them and always meet in public places, preferably during the day.
  5. Encourage your teen to be alert to people online who make them feel uncomfortable and to block them. They should report inappropriate contact to the website administrators.
  6. Some teens feel worried about their parents’ reaction to things they may have said or done online, especially if they think they encouraged online sexual contact. This can prevent them reporting concerns about online contacts. Perpetrators play on this worry and shame to isolate teens from family and friends and encourage teens to trust and confide in them.
  7. To overcome this risk reassure your teen that you will always support them and not block heir internet access if they report that they are uncomfortable or worried about what somebody has been saying online.
  8. Be alert to changes in your teen’s behaviour or mood that are concerning including increased or decreased sexualised behaviours and/or apparent confidence, clinginess or withdrawal, anxiety or sadness and changed interactions with friends. Explore your concerns with them and if necessary seek professional support.

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