This report presents a review of recently published academic and policy-relevant research on the misuse of online social networking sites and other forms of communications technologies by sexual predators to groom children for sexual conduct.
Advances in technology have provided individuals with unparalleled opportunities to communicate efficiently and in real time. However, these advances in information and communications technologies have also enabled adults with an inappropriate sexual interest in children to establish contact with them, to develop relationships, and to groom potential victims for sexual abuse. Research has indicated that social networking Internet sites are being used extensively by children and that some communications are of an improper and illegal nature. This report of the Australian Institute of Criminology, commissioned by the Attorney General's Department, presents academic and policy-relevant literature concerning the use of social networking sites for grooming children for sexual purposes, the extent and nature of the problem, victim and offender profiles, and effective ways to address it. The report provides some indications of the ways in which emerging technological changes may be exploited to facilitate and commit online child grooming. Key risk areas identified include: (1) the use of anonymizing protocols, password authentication techniques, encryption techniques and steganographic techniques; (2) trafficking child pornography; (3) using search engines to locate children for the purpose of sexual abuse online; (4) risks relating to virtual "rape" of minors perpetrated in online games or virtual worlds; and (5) obtaining personal information regarding children online by sexual offenders and others alike. Tables, figures, references, and appendixes
Australian Institute of Criminology
GPO Box 2944, Canberra ACT, 2601 Australia, Australia
AIC Reports: Research and Public Policy Series 103