Emma Hodgson: “Understanding young people’s online sexual behaviour, nature, cases, context and consequences.”

In Students by General Account

There is a growing concern that young people are not only victims of online child sexual abuse but that they can also facilitate Harmful Sexual Behaviours (HSB) online. (Vaswani et al 2022, Finkelhor et al 2022 and Hollis & Belton 2017). This concern is evident in the much anticipated and delayed online safety bill (A guide to the Online Safety Bill – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and the publication of final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (www.iicsa.org.uk). Having worked as a Social Worker in a specialist HSB team for over 17 years, I observed the growing number of young people being referred to services due to displaying HSB through technology. This experience led me to research online HSB at Masters level. Through my Masters research, I identified ongoing gaps in research knowledge and understanding of the scale and nature of young people’s online sexual behaviour. To date, research into this issue has been limited to a few small-scale studies focusing on young males who had been known to have viewed indecent images of children (Belton & Hollis 2016), with only one full spectrum study into young people displaying online HSB (Hollis & Belton 2017). While findings from this study have generated awareness, further research is urgently needed to develop a deeper understanding and to enable appropriate responses and resources to be developed to meet the needs of this group of young people.