The Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC), the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, and its partner agencies held its first Out of the Dark (OotD) steering committee meeting for 2021, coinciding with National Safer Internet Day, to discuss the increasing challenges regarding online child exploitation.
QFCC Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon said the largescale shift toward online environments brought on by the COVID-19 lockdowns underpinned the conversations which revolved around the issues and challenges facing families, carers and educators when it comes to keeping children safe on digital platforms.
“The increased reliance on digital platforms for young people’s education, self-expression, socialising and entertainment, has made awareness around these issues for children and parents absolutely essential,” Ms Vardon said.
“Working alongside the Queensland Police Service, Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, Bravehearts, yourtown, Department of Education, and eSafety Commission we will look at the evidence to develop a response to the growing concerns.”
Whilst the increase of children and young people accessing the internet has seen an upward trend, reports to the eSafety Commissioner also identified that online harm has surged, including child sexual exploitation, grooming, image-based abuse, and the sharing of self-produced sexual material.
“Notably there has been an increase in activity on the dark web, with predators taking advantage of increased opportunities to contact children remotely during lockdowns,” Ms Vardon said.
“To better respond to the upward trend in cases of online child sexual exploitation, the QFCC will work with young people to look at ways it can raise awareness of the growing trends with solutions to curb the spike in what agencies are seeing.”
The Out of the Dark Program was established in 2015 as a response to the Queensland Organised Crime Commission of Inquiry 2015 (Byrne Report) to address internet-related child sexual abuse. The report acknowledged that the proliferation of new and emerging information and communication technologies increasingly exposed children and young people to risks and harms in the online environment.
The OotD program aims to educate children, young people and their parents about how to recognise, prevent and respond to online child sexual grooming.
The QFCC website has downloadable online safety resources as part of the Out of the Dark initiative.
Media contact –
Queensland Family and Child Commission
0434 683 265