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:

Childhood understood at an early stage the opportunities offered by digitization when it comes to reaching out and helping vulnerable children. For more than ten years, the internet has been a natural part of our work and we have supported several pioneers in the field, such as Fryshuset´s Web Walkers och Tjejzonen´s chat activities. Experiences from these and similar projects supported by Childhood show that it is far easier to talk for the first time about sexual abuse if this can be anonymously, in a chat, for example. Online communication is carried out on young people’s terms – you need not worry about being recognized, you can seek help without your parents or others hearing what you are talking about, and you can end a conversation at any time.

The internet can also be used to stop offenders and to block content that shows abuse. Using technical solutions, such as image matching software, organizations, authorities, companies and internet service providers can block images showing sexual abuse of children and identify people who commit these crime, perhaps from their work computer. Childhood offered early support to the company Netclean, which used our help to develop exactly this type of technology. We have also helped to finance the anti-grooming technical solution Trast due to be launched in spring 2018.

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.