Use of the internet and social media is now almost ubiquitous amongst adolescents. Parents express concern about their children’s use of social media and the risk of exposure to both unwanted and sought-after content, especially sexual content. Negotiating the digital world and understanding who their children are communicating with is becoming more difficult for parents. The grooming of children by adults for sexual purposes is well acknowledged historically but the internet has facilitated new and novel ways for this to occur. We will discuss the risk and reality of the online world, particularly focusing on the exposure of increasingly younger children to sexual content, and what role and responsibility should fall to parents, schools and the technology companies themselves.
We will also discuss the methods used by predators to find their victims and begin the grooming process. Research conducted at the VFPMS examining the incidence and characteristics of technology-facilitated sexual assault will be presented, exploring the unique features of online connections in children that create the perfect storm for sexual assault.
Susan McLean is the Director of CyberSafety Solutions and Australia’s foremost expert in cyber safety. Susan was a member of Victoria Police for 27 years and was the first Victoria Police Officer to be appointed to a position involving young people and cyber safety. Susan delivers Cybersafety education and support to schools and other organisations in Australia and internationally.
Dr Jo Tully is the Deputy Director of the Victorian Forensic Paediatric Medical Service and leads the VFPMS unit at Monash Children’s Hospital. Jo is a general paediatrician who joined the VFPMS in 2011 to specialise in forensic paediatric medicine and has subsequently completed a Masters of Forensic Medicine. Jo is currently supervising a PhD student examining the issue of technology-facilitated sexual assault in children and adolescents.