Skövde University and Change Attitude Foundation
Skövde and Stockholm, Sweden
In police investigations, child sexual abuse material produced through grooming or sexual extortion, is very frequent. The children in the photos are most often between 8 and 16 years old, but one third of the investigating police officers have worked with grooming cases including children between 5 and 7 years of age.
Perpetrators use threats and extortion
The vast majority of children who are contacted for sexual purposes can handle the situation by blocking the perpetrator, shutting down their devices or talking to an adult. But perpetrators who search the internet to sexually abuse children online have developed increasingly sophisticated methods. They often contact a multitude of children at the same time, and once they have established contact they almost instantly start to threaten the child in order to get what they want. For the exposed children, this can have serious consequences. To inform children and adults about the risks online is vital, but general information is not enough.
Treasure hunt with a purpose
In order to strengthen children’s resilience online, Childhood has contributed to the Change Attitude Foundation’s development of the game “Parkgömmet” for elementary school children. The game, developed by researchers at Skövde University, consists of a physical board game making use of augmented reality through a tablet or smartphone. The game is similar to a classic treasure hunt, where each player hides a treasure. During the game, the children receive messages from an unknown person who tries to get them to reveal clues to where their treasure is hidden. This way the children can experience how it feels and how they can react to common grooming techniques, such as flattery, nagging and threats.
Follow-up conversations about online risks
When they created the treasure hunt, the researchers used authentic internet chat logs where children had been contacted for sexual purposes. The game, which doesn’t contain any scary elements, is a starting point for follow-up conversations about online risks. These discussions are led by a teacher, using accompanying material. The game has been distributed free of charge to elementary schools in Sweden.