A quarter of all child sexual abuse cases involve another child, new research reveals, with much of the behaviour being learnt on the internet.
Reported in the Courier Mail, the research, released by charity Act For Kids during Child Protection Week, has brought to light the fact that the abuse is often undetected given that parents assume their child is safe around other children.
Extracts of the news update go on to say:
Doctor Katrina Lines, executive director of services with Act for Kids, said the research was undertaken as the charity had noticed an increase in referrals of peer-on-peer sexual abuse in the past decade. Dr Lines said it was a complex problem and often stemmed from domestic and family violence or the child being sexually abused themselves. Despite that, three quarters of those interviewed in the study blamed access to sexually explicit material online, in games or in films for the problematic sexual behaviours.
Problematic sexual behaviours is not normal exploration or curiosity, but that which involves coercion and force.
"Children don't even have to think about accessing the material," Dr Lines said.
Shireen Gunn, operations director at the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, said that an exposure to pornography, which is easily and often accidentally accessed, had seen an increase in child-to-child abuse, with the child acting out what they have viewed on siblings or other children.
Act for Kids is urging parents to take three steps to help protect kids online…
1. Secure household devices by setting passcodes and restrictions on all devices (smart fridges, gaming consoles and Google Home!)
- Restrict household devices’ search terms, privacy settings and implement filtering systems.
- Check who has the ability to share material with your child (e.g. Airdrop)
2. Supervise children online and monitor the material they are accessing
- Identify specific locations for internet use within the home; keeping devices in a shared family area
- Regularly check their privacy settings and internet search limitations as well as yours
- Limit daily screen time
- Establish what may be identified as inappropriate posts on online profiles
3. Sit Down and have an open conversation with your child about the material they may see online
- Less is more – have multiple short chats and discussions
- Discuss consensual relationships and the difference between reality and fantasy (e.g. real life relationships V pornographic fantasy)
- Be open about expectations to create boundaries and to build trust
Act for Kids also suggest a range of places to find more information, including The Office of the eSafety Commissioner, who is committed to empowering all Australians to have safer, more positive experiences online.
In addition, Deputy Chair of eChildhood, Liz Walker, has published a new children's book. Liz, who is a specialised educator in this field, co-authored Hamish and the Shadow Secret for children aged 8-12-years. Hamish uncovers a world of wonder on tech devices, but he also encounters troubling, harmful images. Hamish and the Shadow Secret is an educational resource for engaging children in a safe and robust conversation about the harms of pornography.
eChildhood emphatically agrees with Act for Kids, in that we are faced with a new age of parenting. Dr Katrina Lines says “Easy access to age-inappropriate content is a major factor in influencing young minds. So, education is crucial! It’s time we start a conversation about the material our kids might be accessing, or that someone else might be showing them.” We thank Act for Kids and Liz Walker for their focussed work in this area.