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Concerning new statistics on the prevalence of requests for facilitated child sexual exploitation online

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

The Albanese Government is encouraging parents to limit who they share content with online, as new research by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) highlights the risks of people misusing and even exploiting this information.

The AIC, in collaboration with the eSafety Commissioner, has today released a report examining requests for facilitated child sexual exploitation online, and who is more at risk of receiving these requests.

Australians are increasingly sharing more of their personal lives online, including photos of children, commonly referred to as ‘sharenting’.

Publicly sharing pictures places children at risk of exploitation and harm from offenders who may groom parents or guardians to create or distribute child sexual abuse material.

The report by the AIC, in collaboration with the eSafety Commissioner, finds 2.8% of the 4,011 Australians it surveyed reported receiving a request for facilitated child sexual exploitation in the past year. This includes requests for sexual images and questions of a sexual nature about children they knew or offers to pay for sexual images of children.

The research highlights the importance of parents being more aware of the potential harms to their child from posting photos and information about children publicly online.

No parent would ever hand a photo album of their children to a stranger and the same care should apply to photos posted online. Simple measures to protect children include changing privacy setting to ensure photos and information are only shared to friends and family.

The AFP-led education program, ThinkUKnow, is just one important initiative committed to helping to prevent online child exploitation through advice and support for parents, carers and guardians.

Most social media platforms and dating apps prohibit the posting of material that sexually exploits or could lead to the sexual exploitation of children, but there are no specific provisions regarding the posting of photos or information regarding children in general.

One measure that has been shown to effectively reduce the online distribution of child sexual abuse is a warning message which appears when anyone attempts to upload a photo of, or information regarding children to a public site.

The Government’s Online Safety Act review is now looking at how we can strengthen our world-leading laws to protect the community from social media harms and ensure industry acts in the best interests of children.

The full report is available on the AIC website.

Background material

Anyone who receives an online request to facilitate child sexual exploitation should immediately report the matter to police.

If you suspect inappropriate behaviour towards children online, please report to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.

Advice and support for parents and carers about how to help protect children online can be found on the ThinkUKnow website, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child exploitation. 

The Australian Institute of Criminology

The Australian Institute of Criminology is Australia's national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice. The AIC seeks to promote justice and reduce crime by undertaking and communicating evidence-based research to inform policy and practice.

This report follows the release of the AIC’s Risk factors for receiving requests to facilitate child sexual exploitation and abuse on dating apps and websites report in February 2024, as part of their collection of research into dating app facilitated sexual violence.