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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Final report

C.7: “I didn’t know that you can be sexually abused online”

26. Young victims and survivors spoke about how the internet and social media have increased children’s vulnerability to sexual abuse. Many described wanting access to the internet from a young age: “It’s your first year at secondary school, that’s where all the pressure really comes in – who’s got the most friends … followers”.[1] One young engagement participant said: “No one wants to start social media when you’re 16. You want to start earlier. That’s when you grow your following”.[2] Morgan said that as an 11-year-old she accessed online teenage dating sites by lying about her age.[3] It was common to hear that children did not feel sufficiently informed about online-facilitated child sexual abuse. One young person said:

When we were told about child sexual abuse, we always think about rape … face to face. But I think with gaming as well, all of my friends play Xbox, sometimes you can get matched with 42-year-old [men] from America … nothing like that was talked about.[4]

Learning about online sexual harm research participant

27. In particular, sending ‘nudes’ was frequently described as commonplace: “the whole Snapchat thing – and sending nudes on Snapchat – it’s just normal”.[5] Many felt that their parents were not fully aware of the risks posed by the internet and “being brought up around this sort of social media culture”.[6] Kiya said: “my mum had no idea about it … so by the age of about 10 or 11 I was probably speaking to people I shouldn’t be”.[7]

28. Some young victims and survivors felt that perpetrators sought out insecure and vulnerable children on social media. Concerns were raised about apps which functioned “like Tinder for kids” and others that promoted conversations between strangers.[8] Nola described an online game for teenagers which encouraged players to interact with each other. However, she said it became clear that adults used this website too.[9]


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