Vicki Hollis and Emma Belton share key findings from our literature review and research exploring the backgrounds and behaviours of young males who display harmful sexual behaviour using the internet and digital technology
Developments in technology have changed the way young people interact with each other. As well as offering young people new opportunities the online world can also pose new threats, particularly in relation to sexualised content and behaviours online.
Research about the way young people display harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) online or using digital technology is limited. Practitioners working with young people who display this form of HSB therefor have limited evidence to inform their work. They can end up drawing on aAssessment tools and intervention guides that wereare generally designed for young people who display HSB offline. This could mean practitioners are unable put the most appropriate support in place or don’t have enough information to assess risk.
The NSPCC collaborated with the AIM project, to develop an evidence-based guidance tool to assist practitioners assessing young people who display HSB online or using mobile communication channels (we call this technology assisted HSB or TA-HSB). Our review of the evidence exploring TA-HSB identified very little pre-existing research; just 4 studies looked at the behaviours of young males who view indecent images of children online. So, we carried out our own research exploring the behaviours, backgrounds and characteristics of children and young people who display TA-HSB.
We looked at 275 case files from our therapeutic service, Turn the Page, to find out the prevalence of TA-HSB. We also carried out an in-depth study of a sub-sample of 91 young males.