Catch22 has held workshops and events to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) across the country this week in the run-up to National Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day on 18th March 2017. Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse that occurs when a child is manipulated or coerced into sexual activity by a group or individual. According to government guidelines, child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur using technology. Online grooming happens when someone gains the trust of a child over the internet for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation.
With 87% of 5 to 15-year-olds accessing the internet via any type of device (Ofcom, 2015), educating children, young people, care-givers and professionals about online safety is integral to preventing online grooming and child sexual exploitation. Catch22 staff share our knowledge and experience of working with those affected by CSE by delivering training to: social care teams; parents and carers; school staff; Local Authority transportation staff and other professionals including A&E and emergency response teams.
We also work directly with young people to raise awareness of the issue through preventative workshops and support them to recognise the signs and symptoms of child sexual exploitation, including keeping safe online.
Alongside a series of awareness-raising events, our Pan Merseyside Child Exploitation service will be supporting Merseyside Police on 18 March, targeting transport hubs across all five Local Authorities to offer child sexual exploitation advice to young people and identify anyone at risk of, or experiencing, child sexual exploitation.
Five ways to stay safe online
To support the national campaign, Catch22 staff have worked with young people to identify five ways to stay safe online. These five tips will be shared online on 18 March:
- Make sure privacy settings on social media apps are activated.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Never arrange to meet someone in person you have only met online.
- If anyone online asks you to keep a secret, tell a trusted adult.
- Don’t post personal photos or give out personal information.
We also worked with our frontline caseworkers to identify five ways to spot and prevent online grooming and CSE, from a practitioner’s perspective. These will also be shared on the day to ensure all care-givers can spot the signs:
- Look out for missing episodes and running away from home or school.
- Look out for unexplained gifts and changes in behaviour or mood.
- Understand the apps young people are using and how privacy controls work.
- Be aware that boys can also be victims of online grooming and child sexual exploitation.
- Empower parents and carers to alert professionals when they have concerns.