CSE Awareness Day: Key Issues Part 1

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) awareness day: our staff discuss new or key issues that professionals working in the field need to be focussing on

We asked some of our staff about new or common issues they come across when working with young people at risk of and affected by sexual exploitation to find out where the focus should be so awareness can be more targeted.

Part 1: We asked our CSE Adviser about some common issues she comes across when delivering awareness sessions to children and young people

About our CSE Adviser

Sheila designs and delivers awareness raising sessions in schools for children and young people, parents and teaching staff to help them to understand and recognise the signs of sexual exploitation.

Social media, gaming and new technologies

Sheila said: “parents and carers really need to be more aware of the potential ‘dangers’ with social media and not just rely on security settings for phones, internet or apps. Taking an interest in what games or apps your children use and even getting active on those sites yourself can be just as useful as putting security settings in place. Knowing how an app or social media site works and knowing first-hand what problems you might have with it can help you to be aware of how your child could be using it more safely.”

“It sounds a bit trite to say it again, but talking to your children about what they do online is always best practice. Often young people feel they need to hide most of their online activity from their parents for fear they will be ‘cut off’; either have their phone taken off them or the internet stopped or limited. Keeping lines of communication open so they feel able to have honest discussions could stop them feeling they have to hide more serious issues they might come across. We have seen parents try to turn off the internet in their homes entirely to stop their children getting online, but unless a young person has a phone with no 3G or 4G allowance or that cannot access wifi at all, they are likely still using the internet outside the home anyway. We need to come to terms with the fact that the internet is here to stay and will only continue to grow in its capacity and availability and we need to educate ourselves or accept help wherever it’s needed in order to keep up with how young people use the online space.”

Cyberbullying and grooming

“We’re also seeing cyberbulling becoming a more common issue too with young people not really understanding that they are actually involved in bullying. We see this on chat style apps like Whatsapp and Snapchat where bullying is taking place and young people are conforming to group mentality and joining in or finding it hard to have the confidence to challenge their friends. Because some don’t understand this as being bullying, they’re not raising it with parents or school and threads can often be deleted making it hard to follow up even if they do report it. It worries me that if young people don’t recognise the subtleties of online bullying, they could also fail to recognise when someone is grooming them online too.”

Sexting and sending explicit images

“Sending inappropriate images is still an issue too but I’ve found some parents underestimate the problems this can cause and still think their children are safer in their bedroom than if they were going out. Some still don’t see the risks of online abuse in the same way they view contact abuse. Children we work with have been severely affected by sexual abuse they’ve experienced online – without ever meeting their abuser – so this needs addressing in the same way we would react to a case of face-to-face physical abuse.”

Addressing online safety in the national curriculum

“The best way of addressing all of these issues is to dedicate more time in schools to online safety which could and should be incorporated into the general I.T. curriculum, not just seen as a tick-box exercise to be delivered for an hour once a year. We would like to see SRE (Sex and Relationships Education) and PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) lessons delivered by professionals that understand how young people engage online and the risks that come with that.”

If you would like to discuss the potential for awareness sessions within your school or organisation, please email us.

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