Skip to main content

Alarming new research reveals extent of child exploitation attempts on dating apps

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

Cabinet Secretary
The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP

Minister for Communications
The Hon Michelle Rowland MP

Joint media release

Alarming new research from the Australian Institute of Criminology has revealed dating apps are being used to facilitate child sexual exploitation.

The Institute’s trends and issues paper, The Sexual exploitation of Australian children on dating apps and websites, reveals one in eight (12.4%) of surveyed Australians who have used dating apps in the past five years had been asked by other users on the platform to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children.

This included platform users being asked for sexual information about their child or a child they knew, as well as for sexual videos and pictures, to meet the child in person or asking for access via a webcam.

The results of this ground-breaking survey by the AIC are shocking, and unacceptable.

The Government expects dating platforms to keep all users safe through accessible and responsive reporting mechanisms, support for victims of abuse, processes and policies that hold perpetrators accountable, and incorporating safety by design processes.

Anyone who has been approached for child exploitation content should immediately report it to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. If a child is in immediate danger call 000.

For support on how to prevent and deal with harm caused by online abuse or illegal and restricted online content, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner can help. More information, including where people can report dating apps that fail to act on unacceptable behaviour can be found via the eSafety Commissioner website.

Quotes attributable to the Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP

“I thank the Australian Institute of Criminology for this important work, which lays out the extent of dating app-facilitated sexual abuse and violence in Australia for the first time.
What this survey has uncovered is deeply alarming. This research will inform not only policy responses but work already underway by the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, the Australian Federal Police and other law enforcement agencies to disrupt and stop child exploitation.
It is clear perpetrators are exploiting loopholes to access children through dating apps. Platforms which bring together strangers have an important role to play in facilitating safe connections and not providing new avenues for perpetrators to exploit and harm others.
‘User beware’ is not a good enough safety approach from dating apps. We need to see developers adopt safety by design principles, so platforms are preventing harm in the first place.
The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021 to 2030, led by the National Office for Child Safety, establishes a coordinated approach to preventing and better responding to child sexual abuse, as well as providing support for victims and survivors.
In 2021, the AFP began criminal proceedings against 233 people charged with 2032 child exploitation offences. Most importantly, their tireless work meant 114 children were removed from harm – 49 of them living here in Australia.”

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP

“This research from the Australian Institute of Criminology is extremely concerning and completely unacceptable.
Australians should expect dating apps to do everything they can to keep their users safe and ensure their platforms are not being used to exploit vulnerable people, especially children.
Anyone who has been approached for child exploitation content should immediately report it to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. Australians who experience abuse on dating apps should report it to the dating app, and if they fail to act reports can be lodged with the eSafety Commissioner.”