Child sexual abuse is commonly associated with an adult abusing a child, yet, a staggering one in four (24%) cases actually involve one child abusing another. Sadly, this type of abuse is increasing.
Often undetected by parents, children can display problematic sexual behaviours from as early as two years old. Problematic sexual behaviours are not just direct sexual abuse acts but are also behaviours that fall outside of general curiosity and natural exploration between children.
New research commissioned by Act for Kids reveals that while three quarters (78%) of Australians blame problematic sexual behaviours on access to online content, worryingly, parents are not taking the necessary precautions to protect their children online.
Program Manager at Act for Kids, Miranda Bain said the findings are both surprising and scary, “There is a lack of knowledge amongst parents of what constitutes problematic sexual behaviours in children and how these behaviours have the potential to lead to more harmful peer on peer abuse,” she said.
According to Act for Kids Executive Director of Services Dr Katrina Lines, it is a new age of parenting. “Easy access to age-inappropriate content is a major factor in influencing young minds. So, education is crucial! It’s time we start a conversation about the material our kids might be accessing, or that someone else might be showing them,” Dr Lines said.
The research finds that two-thirds (63%) of parents fail to secure their devices with passwords and one in two (55%) allow their children unsupervised access online.
As technology is evolving at such a fast pace, those responsible for protecting children are struggling to keep up. As a result, the 98% of children under 10 who already use devices, are left exposed to pornographic and violent content.
Concerningly, two-thirds (67%) of parents to children under 12 feel they need more education on how to protect their children from accessing inappropriate content.
Click here to learn more about how to protect your kids online!
National abuse lawyer, Lisa Flynn, has extensive experience assisting those who have been sexually abused.
“Once a person has been sexually abused the emotional scars left can be debilitating. As a community we need to be doing everything we can to stop this alarming increase in the incidence of peer on peer abuse.
“We need to know how to identify where the risk exists, how to respond to it when it happens and how best to support all children to minimise the long-term effects of the abuse,” says Lisa.
Miranda says, “It’s important for parents to remember children show their needs and wants through their behaviour. So, understanding the reason behind their child’s sexual behaviour is important.
“When children do not have the language, experience or ability to seek help, adults must look carefully at the behaviour to interpret it. Unfortunately, while there isn’t a one size fits all solution, reviewing the behaviour will help parents understand what is going on,” says Miranda.
In light of Child Protection Week, we are urging Australians to take the necessary steps to protect children online.