E: Understanding the interaction between young people and perpetrators - supporting young people's resilience

Thursday 24 May 11.00 - 13.00

Moderator: Ethel Quayle, University of Edinburgh and ROBERT



Julia Davidson
Kingston University

Antonia Bifulco
Kingston University

Young people's response to online sexual solicitation: Findings from the European Online Grooming project [PDF]

The presentation draws upon  findings from a European Commission study (funded under the Safer Internet Programme) that concludes in 2012, the findings will be considered in the context of a wider body of  research.   The presentation will focus on the behaviour of offenders online and the nature of their online interaction wtih children.      

The research aims were to:
•    describe the behaviour of both offenders who groom and young people who are ‘groomed’ and explore differences (e.g. in demographics, behaviour or profiles) within each group and how these differences may have a bearing on offence outcome.
•    describe how information, communication technology (ICT) is used to facilitate the process of online grooming.
•    further the current low knowledge base about the way in which young people are selected and prepared for abuse online
•    make a significant contribution to the development of educational awareness and preventative initiatives aimed at parents and young people

         To meet this set of objectives, the project involved three separate but inter-linked phases.  First, a scoping phase that encompasses; a review of recent police case files, interviews with key stakeholders working to prevent online grooming and a literature review. The fieldwork and analysis of Phase two of the research, in-depth interviews with men who have been convicted of online grooming in each consortium country is also complete.  Phase three of the research has commenced and involves disseminating findings via a series of workshops across Europe to policy makers, practitioners, teachers, parents and young people, to make a significant contribution to the development of educational awareness and prevention initiatives.  It was clear from offender accounts and from direct research with young people (Davidson, 2009, 2010) that the majority are resilient to offender approach.  However, those young people who seemed to be susceptible to the approaches of online groomers displayed a range of vulnerability features that include: loneliness, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviour, family break-up, and incidence of ongoing sexual abuse by other offenders. Analysis of the offender accounts of their contact with young people made it clear that that online grooming cannot be comprehensively understood and managed without understanding the interaction between the offender, online environment and the young person.


Gisela Priebe

Psychologist, Ph D
Dept. of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, IKVL
Lund University

To tell or not to tell? Youth's responses to unwanted Internet experiences


Background: Internet safety programs often advise parents and practitioners to encourage youth to tell an adult about unwanted online experiences. Internet safety rules for children at different ages also usually ask the youth to tell an adult about such experiences.


Objectives: We investigated whether youth with different types of unwanted online experiences were likely to tell anybody about these experiences and whom they told, their reasons for not telling, whether the event was reported to any authority and how telling or not telling is related to characteristics of the youth and the incident. We also investigated how they tried to resolve the situation. The relationship between risk and harm was investigated with regard to whether youth who were upset, embarrassed or afraid because of the incident or who reported other negative reactions after the incident were more likely to tell someone.


Method: A national U.S. sample of 1,560 youth Internet users, ages 10 to 17, participated in a telephone survey, the 3rd Youth Internet Safety Survey. Sexual solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk or to give personal sexual information that were unwanted or made by a person five or more years older, whether wanted or not. Harassment was defined as threats or other offensive behavior, sent online to youth or posted online about youth for others to see. Unwanted exposure to pornography was defined as being exposed to pictures of naked people or people having sex without seeking or expecting such pictures on the Internet.


Results: Online harassment was the type of unwanted experience youth most often told someone about. This finding is in line with results from the EU Kids online survey (Hasebrink et al., 2011; Livingstone et al., 2011). Youth who had experienced online harassment and were upset had told someone more often. Youth told most often a friend or a parent about the unwanted experience. Youth who did not tell anyone often thought the experience was not sufficiently serious while few did not tell anyone because they thought they might get into trouble or lose Internet access.


Conclusion: Internet safety programmes need to take into account that youth’s decisions to tell or not to tell someone about unwanted Internet experiences vary depending on factors such as type of experience, perception of harm and characteristics of the incident or the youth.


Vernon Jones


Children and young people exibiting sexually harmful behaviour online and offline - what have we learned and wht do we need to know to propose effective intervention? [PDF]

The fact that some children and adolescents sexually harm other children can be extremely diffic ult for many child care professionals and members of the public to comprehend. The emergence of what has been perceived of as a “new social problem” has been met with denial, confusion and a lack of appropriate intervention in most European countries. Although assessment and treatment facilities for these children now exist in some countries, service provision based upon a coordinated national strategy and a cohesive governmental response has been extremely slow to develop. This is even more apparent in terms of the lack of effective assessment services for preventing sexually harmful behaviour by children and adolescents in relation to the online technologies.


Proposing effective assessment and therapeutic services to these children and adolescents, entails defining the multifaceted and complex nature of this issue, taking into account the different cultural and sociopolitical contexts that exist within Europe. First and foremost, a distinction needs to be made between adolescents and younger children, in terms of their emotional, cognitive and social development, making it imperative that assessment and therapy take into account the needs of each individual child and are not based on a “one fits all philosophy”. This does not appear to be happening at the present time.


The proliferation of the online technologies has added to the pathways and contexts where sexually harmful behaviour can take place. Children and adolcescents have almost unlimited access to the Internet via personal computers and mobile phones. It is important we further explore the possible causal links between deviant use of the interactive technologies and sexually harmful behaviour commited by children and adolcescents. This presentation will give an overview of how the international community has responded to this chllenge and the problems of working effectively with children and adolescents who have exhibited sexually harmful behaviour, both within and outside the online context.

Kadri Soo

Judit Strömpl

Mare Ainsaar
Institute of Sociology and Social Policy
Tartu University

Identification of online sexual dangers and coping strategies: The case of Estonian teenagers. [PDF]


The EU Kids online study with quantitative survey design indicated that the proportion of Internet use and exposure to online dangers of Estonian children is one of the highest among European countries (Livingstone et al., 2011). This paper analyses the identification of dangers related to sexual harassment on the Internet for Estonian teenagers and their coping strategies with Internet risks. In addition, the paper sheds light the differences in perception of dangers for boys and girls.


At part of ROBERT project four focus group interviews were carried out with 14-17-years-old Estonian teenagers. The interviews were done separately for institutional (substitute home) and non-institutional boys and girls.


The presentation gives an overview about sexual online dangers perceived by teenagers. The interviewees talked about various signs of danger situations on the Internet and their reaction to such signs. The major indicator was a message in foreign language from an unknown person from abroad. Mostly these messages included enticing and sexual compliments and initiation of conversation causing repulsion for recipients. Unpleasant messages could be sent also in Estonian or in Estonian with clear signs of ‘google translate’ help. Generally the interviewees reacted the undesirable message by deletion it and blocking the sender. Interestingly, the participants did not use terms like ‘sexual message’ or sexual harassment’ while talking about receiving invitation and remarks with sexual content. They called the perpetrators as ‘perverts’ or ‘Turks’. Last one refers to harassers from other countries.


During the interview some participants disclosed that they had responded to stranger persons just for fun. When the teenagers started the conversation with a stranger then they perceived the proposal of use webcam and meet face-to-face as a signs of a danger situation. The teenagers considered online relationships with peers never met in person as normal and not dangerous behaviour. Before meeting online friend offline, young people preferred to see him/her on the webcam to be sure that the new friend did not lie about his/her age. 


The interviewees presented themselves as informed on online dangers and had avoidance strategies. Boys stated that girls are more likely the targets of stranger’s unwanted messages. But girls guessed that younger and more naïve girls will be rather more at risk because of their risky online behaviour (e.g., posting of revealing photos). Boys presented themselves as active initiators of becoming acquainted with stranger peer girls, while girls were less oriented to boys in their talks. Both, boys and girls replayed to strangers’ online invitations sometimes. Different motivations and risk avoidance strategies were mentioned.