In this day and age, it is impossible for most of us to imagine a life without access to the internet. The internet, and the enormous opportunities it offers, enriches life for both children and adults. But digitization has also made it easier for people seeking contact with children for sexual purposes to gain direct access to them. The internet also enables offenders to coordinate in networks, which has resulted in an incredibly rapid spread of images of abuse and in new and even harsher ways to exploit children, such as placing an “order” for a child ahead of a trip or the live-streaming of abuse.

We know that children who are particularly vulnerable to abuse offline also find it more difficult to protect themselves online. And we know that children who are victims of online abuse feel just as bad as when it occurs outside the digital world. At the same time, the internet enables us to reach out to vulnerable children and to track down online offenders. The anonymity and accessibility offered by the internet, which offenders use to their advantage, are also what make it such a fantastic tool for reaching out to children who would otherwise not be able, or dare, to seek help.

What Childhood does to increase child safety online:

For more than fifteen years we have supported online innovators, for example Tjejzonen which pioneered chat services for vulnerable girls. Experiences from these and similar projects supported by Childhood show that online communication is a way to empower children: it allows them to take the first small step towards talking about abuse in an anonymous and safe manner.

The internet can also be used to stop offenders and to block content that shows abuse. Using technical solutions, companies and internet service providers can block images showing sexual abuse of children and help identify the perpetrators and find the children. Childhood offered early support to the company Netclean, which used our help to develop this type of technology.

Our overall focus is prevention of child sexual abuse. Two of our current projects focus on prevention but from two very different perspectives:

Parkgömmet is a project which aims to help primary school children learn how to navigate risks online by actually experiencing various grooming tactics in a safe environment. Parkgömmet is a physical board game making use of augmented reality through a tablet or smartphone. The game is based on unique research of authentic grooming cases containing dialogues between children and convicted perpetrators. The research has then been used to incorporate the grooming strategies into the game without scary or inappropriate content, and is accompanied with methodological material for teacher-led discussions.

The Prevent_IT project is evaluating a new way to help people stop consuming online child sexual abuse material. The project is testing an online cognitive behavioral psychotherapy programme which is also therapist-assisted. In order to truly prevent sexual abuse of children, one must work with those who are at risk of committing the abuse. Childhood recognizes that more research is needed within this area.

In September 2015, at Childhood USA´s UN High Level Meeting “Children and the SDGs: Giving Every Child a Chance”, Childhood´s founder Queen Silvia challenged the CEO of Ericsson and the ICT community to create a mobile application to protect children from abuse and exploitation. This led to the creation of the “Stewards of Children Prevention Toolkit” mobile application in partnership with non-profit Darkness to Light and Ericsson. A first-of-its kind mobile application, this toolkit is designed to equip adults with the skills and resources necessary to recognize, prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. It was officially launched in September 2016 at the UN. Read more about the app here.