16 July 2021 | Podcasts | Article by Alan Collins

HJ Talks About Abuse: The Impact of Covid-19 on Online Child Sexual Exploitation - Part 1

In this podcast Alan Collins discusses with Prof. Michael Salter of the University of New South Wales the impact of Covid-19 on Online Child Sexual Exploitation.

It will come , perhaps, as no great surprise that the pandemic with the “lockdowns” as impacted on children and young people in many ways, whether it be being unable to attend school, delayed exams, or not seeing friends and family. Concerns have been raised about the risks of child sexual abuse being heightened by the impact of “lockdowns”, and these have been well-founded given the research undertaken by Prof. Slater and his colleague Dr Tim Wong. Their research paper: “The impact of COVID-19 on the risk of online child sexual exploitation and the implications for child protection and policing” is the subject of this podcast.

The research highlights the following:

  • There were significant changes and disruptions to OCSE professional practice as a result of COVID-19. Working from home (and many of can now relate to this), and other COVID-19 safety measures (for example travel restrictions; court closures etc) were particularly challenging for professionals engaged in investigations work, managing sensitive or illegal content, undertaking case management, and for those reliant upon multi-agency collaboration.

  • Major increases in reports and investigations into OCSE were not matched by increased victim identification and victim support efforts. Participant responses indicated that they experienced an influx of OCSE reports, resulting in increased investigations work, however OCSE victim identification and support efforts remained at pre-pandemic levels.

  • OCSE education and prevention initiatives decreased during the pandemic. Although online risks to children increased during the pandemic, agencies found it difficult to maintain their existing outreach and prevention efforts.

  • The majority of professionals identified increased OCSE offending and risk behaviour as a result of the pandemic including increases related to: child sexual abuse material, online grooming, activity in online abuse communities, online risk taking by minors, and live streaming of abuse material.

  • OCSE professionals reported a lack of robust statistical measures of OCSE offender behaviour and child risk as a key constraint when assessing the impact of COVID-19 on online child safety and offender behaviour.

A full copy of “The impact of COVID-19 on the risk of online child sexual exploitation and the implications for child protection and policing” can be found here.

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