Child10 is launching a new report about online grooming in collaboration with four of the Awarded Members of 2022. The report “Online grooming – a growing threat to children in the digital age” details research about the problem with online grooming of children in Western Europe, focusing on Belgium, Germany, Finland, France and Sweden. The report includes joint recommendations to tackle the issue of grooming, highlighting the need for more data and research together with education and prevention, as well as stronger legislation.
Online grooming is growing rapidly with the rise of technology and is becoming a widespread problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this issue, with a significant increase in the number of websites hosting self-generated child sexual abuse material and reports of online enticements. The report is a joint effort by Agir Contre la Prostitution des Enfants (France), Child10 (Sweden), Child Focus (Belgium), Netzwerk gegen Menschenhandel (Germany) and Protect Children (Finland).
– Cross-national collaboration is crucial to fully comprehend the scope of the serious problem of online grooming of children. As expert organizations from different countries in Europe we now urge EU policy makers to act with force on our joint recommendations and see them implemented for the sake of all children, says Jacob Flärdh, chair of the Board, Child10.
The key findings of the report are divided into three different topics: Data and Research, Education and Prevention, and Legislation together with Cooperation. The report sheds light on the ways that social media is being used to exploit and groom children, and what immediate and long-term steps that need to be taken to protect children.
– As online environments such as social media become more and more integrated with children’s lives at an early age, we stress the need for education both for children, professionals working with children and parents. It is necessary to supplement school curricula with digital safety-skills education to provide children with tools to navigate online safely as well as introduce sexual education classes that, among other things, cover safe behavior and communication online, says Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Protect Children Executive Director, Senior Specialist, Psychotherapist.
Although the report identifies that legislation is present in each of the observed countries, the report identifies that cooperation regarding EU legislations is lacking. Additionally, the cooperation between different sectors, which together have the possibility to prevent technology-facilitated grooming, needs to develop.
– Social media companies should be obliged to cooperate with child protection bodies. Our organizations also demand that the proposed EU Regulation to combat child sexual abuse online is accepted as soon as possible by the EU Council and the EU Parliament, and implemented, says Nel Broothaerts, Chief Prevention and Development Officer and Deputy CEO Child Focus.