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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Learning about online sexual harm

Provision of school-based education about online sexual harm

Nearly all participants thought that schools have an important role to play in educating children and young people about online sexual harm. However, some participants noted that they had not received such education, or had received it ‘too late’, after they had been exposed to or experienced online sexual harm. As one 14-year-old male interviewee who experienced online sexual harm observed:

“There’s no point in learning about a situation after the situation has actually goddamned happened.”

14-year-old male interviewee

Participants emphasised the importance of schools educating children about online sexual harm before they start spending time on social media and other online platforms. Recognising the increasingly young age at which children may engage with social media, participants highlighted the importance of education about online sexual harm starting at primary school. They also noted the importance of school-based education being delivered on an ongoing basis, rather than as a one-off discrete input.Participants further expressed the need for education to consider the different learning styles and needs of pupils, and to use a range of engagement techniques, such as talks and videos, to meet these needs.

Participants identified a role for both schools and external organisations in delivering such education. This included bringing in those who had experienced such harm to talk about their experiences.

“By talking to people who have had those experiences it makes it a lot more real. I feel like by having other young people talking to you about it, they can connect on a more personal level than an older person who doesn’t know the internet as well as a younger person.”

16-year-old female survey participant

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