Australian Institute of Criminology

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Online child grooming remains an internet threat

Media Release

06 July 2009

Parents should be vigilant in monitoring their children’s online activities according to a report into online child grooming released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

Online child grooming: a literature review on the misuse of social networking sites for grooming children for sexual offences – shows that greater opportunities for communication have also increased the threat to the community from crimes such as the online exploitation of children.

AIC Principal Criminologist, Dr Russell Smith, said parents should educate their children about the dangers of giving out personal information online.

“A study of Australian families in 2007 found about 70 percent of teenage girls and 50 percent of boys had a profile on a social networking site and that one in eight had posted videos of themselves online,” Dr Smith said.

“The increase in children using social networking sites and the anonymity they provide has allowed would-be offenders to pose as children in order to attract potential victims.

“They are also using popular social networking websites to browse the personal profiles of children.”

The report highlights the need for rigorous law enforcement and international legislation to combat online child exploitation.

“Fighting child exploitation is a challenge requiring a coordinated effort and collaboration on the part of government and the private sector,” Dr Smith said.

The report outlines how the involvement of the communications industry, especially its development of computer forensic technology, is becoming increasingly vital.

The report suggests that the use of hotlines for the reporting of illegal web content to the appropriate authorities, online reporting facilities and monitoring systems are all important tools in containing online child exploitation.

The online child grooming report is available at www.aic.gov.au

AIC media contact: Scott Kelleher, Tel: 02.6260 9244; m: 0418 159 525