Australian-first research finds most parents do not think online sexual exploitation can happen to their child

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) today released the results of market research into community awareness and understanding of online child sexual exploitation.

Despite just under 17,000 reports of online child sexual exploitation received by the ACCCE in 2019, the Australian-first research found only 21 per cent of parents and carers think there is a likelihood that online child sexual exploitation can happen to their child.

The research also showed the issue of online child sexual exploitation remains stigmatised, with 21 per cent of parents or carers feeling online child sexual exploitation is too “repulsive” or “sickening” to think about.

Further findings highlighted that current preventative measures are reactive and inconsistent, with a need to provide effective education and awareness materials to families.

The release of the findings come as Australia’s online child safety program, ThinkUKnow, today launched its 2020 annual program update.

The ThinkUKnow program has used the ACCCE-commissioned market research to produce a targeted education and prevention program that aims to reduce the impact and incidence of online child sexual exploitation in Australia.

Australian Federal Police Manager ACCCE Marina Simoncini said the research was an important step in understanding the current landscape in Australia in order to develop effective evidence-based prevention initiatives.

“Education and prevention plays a critical role to counter the ever-increasing number of child exploitation reports received each year.

“Law enforcement can’t be everywhere at once and the ThinkUKnow program, working together with the ACCCE, represents a holistic approach to fighting this crime,” she said.

“By working closely with our partners across the Australian community, we aim to help parents and carers, and children, understand what to look out for, in the hope that we can reduce the amount of offences against children.”

The ThinkUKnow program is in its 11th year and is Australia’s first and only nationally-delivered, law enforcement-led online child safety program, taking a whole-of-community approach to education and prevention through presentations to parents, carers, teachers and students.

The program is delivered by industry and law enforcement volunteers and AFP and State and Territory police.

The AFP-led ACCCE, launched in September 2018, represents the government’s commitment to tackling online child exploitation by employing a collaborative national approach. It drives a coordinated and collaborative national response that draws on the expertise of law enforcement, government, non-government and private industry, to target those seeking to exploit children, and better educate kids, parents and carers on how to stay safe in the modern world.

Key figures:

  • 21 per cent of participants think there is a likelihood that online child sexual exploitation can happen to their child.
  • 3 per cent listed online grooming as a concern.
  • 52 per cent of participants talk to their children about online safety.
  • 21 per cent of participants felt online child exploitation is too repulsive and sickening to think about.
  • Four out of five children aged four are using the internet; 30 per cent of these children have access to their own device.
  • 23 per cent of parents sit with their children while they use the internet.
  • 51 per cent of participants did not know what they could do to keep children safe from online child sexual exploitation.

The ACCCE research report, Online Child Sexual Exploitation: Understanding community awareness, perceptions, attitudes and preventative behaviours can be found via: https://www.accce.gov.au/news-and-media/understanding-online-child-exploitation/

ThinkUKnow is a partnership between the Australian Federal Police, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Datacom, and Microsoft, and is delivered in collaboration with State and Territory police and Neighbourhood Watch Australasia.

For more information and prevention tips visit the ThinkUKnow website www.thinkuknow.org.au/

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Read the AFP Annual Report 2018-19

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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