With the speed of technology and the development of apps and trends online, parents, carers and professionals working with young people can find themselves confused and at a loss to know how to keep up.
Whilst lots of useful information exists to support them in trying to keep children safe, we know that teenagers enjoy their independence online and the ‘private’ world the internet offers them. Most of the time this is fun and helps them stay in touch.
Occasionally, however, this may not be the case. Young people can fall victim to the skilled techniques employed by those who are intent on doing them harm.
Marie Collins Foundation (MCF) and the NWG Network are working together to support professionals and parents in what to do when things go wrong.
We identified that easily accessible information outlining the main considerations when it is discovered a child has been harmed online would be a valuable resource. Working together, we have drawn on our considerable experience and expertise in this field to create new resources for parents and carers, and professionals. Importantly, the experience of survivors of online abuse has been shared to inform the information provided.
The Online Sexual Harm Reduction Guide is aimed at professionals; How Can I Help My Child? Is aimed at parents and carers.
The two organisations developed these documents collaboratively and support the need to share the messages as widely as possible, making them free and accessible to all.
MCF is a highly respected charity specialising in the field of raising awareness of online sexual abuse, training professionals and supporting victims. MCF is passionate about advocating for children who have suffered online sexual abuse and exploitation, encouraging and supporting them and their families to survive and recover and empowering them to go on to live safe and fulfilling lives.
NWG is also a charity formed as a network of over 14,500 practitioners across the UK who disseminate information to fellow professionals working on the issue of child exploitation. Its team comprises of specialists with a range of skills who proactively engage with other organisations by sharing, and seeking, effective practice to better protect children.
The leaflet aimed at parents and carers explains what forms sexual abuse online can take and helps adults to understand why young people may be at greater risk of harm and why they may not tell. Critically, the leaflet helps parents to know what to do if they believe their child has been harmed, some dos and don’ts and where to go for help.
MCF’s subject matter expert, a survivor of online sexual abuse, co-wrote the document. She says: “I think it’s really important that parents have this information available to them. When I was younger my parents didn’t know anything about online safety, or the risks posed online.
“Things have moved on and there are more resources available now, but we could see there was a gap in information that really considered the core issues of how grooming happens, how children are silenced and how parents, carers and professionals can respond. Knowing how to start that conversation with young people is key and I don’t think that has been addressed before. This would have been a great resource for my parents to have.”
The professionals’ leaflet was developed to address the challenges professionals face in relation to online harm when working with young people. It outlines the specific issues, and the ways professionals can engage effectively with young people and their families.
The charities are continuing to work together on a third resource aimed directly at young people.