What should you do if your child has been groomed or a nude photo of them is being distributed online?
- Listen and comfort your child. Allow them to tell you what has happened at their own pace.
- Thank them for telling you about the incident. The child may feel a strong sense of shame and fear about the incident.
- Don’t blame the child. Grooming a child and distributing nude photos of a child are criminal offences. The child who has become a victim of such an offence is not guilty of the offence, even if the child has, for example, shared intimate or sexually explicit photos of themselves.
- Save the evidence. Do not delete anything. Take screenshots or photos of the conversations, the pictures the child has received and sent, and all profiles. Hold on to the screenshots or photos until you can pass them on to the police.
- Report the incident to the police or to us via the Report page. The Finnish Hotline will always inform the police of any illegal activities. You can also consult us on a low-threshold basis.
- Make sure you get the professional help and support you need. For example, the child and the entire family can be supported by the child health clinic, school or child welfare services. You will find a list of other helpful organisations on this page.
How to support your child’s safe use of the web?
Keeping children safe is the responsibility of adults in all aspects of their lives, including digital environments. Safety education provides children the knowledge and skills they need to deal with threatening or dangerous situations. The aim is to inform and encourage the child to act – not to scare them. In the same way that parents, carers, and other adults teach children how to behave in traffic and social situations, children should be provided with information appropriate to their age and level of development about what is allowed online and what is prohibited or dangerous. The parent plays an important role in the child’s online life, even if the child or young person has a better understanding of technology and the online world of the youth than the parent.
Being present and fostering a sense of safety are essential parts of the safety education. It is natural for a child to tell an adult about any problems if they normally talk about their digital life with the adult. Safe interaction between the adult and child is the best way to protect the child.
- Ask questions and be curious. For example, you could use a digital device with your child and let them show you what they like to do with it.
- Aim for positivity. Talk with the child about the benefits and opportunities provided by the web. How have they succeeded in a game? What kind of videos do they enjoy watching? With whom do they like to talk on the app?
- Be open. If you are worried about something in the way your child is using a digital device, tell your child about it calmly. Discuss how the issue can be fixed or changed to eliminate the concern.
- Support them and be present. The adult is always responsible for the safety of the child.
- Check age limits. Make sure your child is only using age-appropriate digital platforms and playing age-appropriate games.
- Remember that your child has the right to privacy and to spend time online with children of the same age. Social media and different types of platforms are everyday communication tools for children and young people, and they play an important role in their mutual interaction and relationships. Never go behind the child’s back without a pressing reason. For example, don’t read your child’s messages or track their location without talking to them first.
- Discuss with your child what kind of photos and information they share about themselves and others, and how they protect their privacy. It is important to remind children and young people that sharing photos always carries the risk of uncontrolled distribution. The child should know not to share photos of other children in their underwear or in the nude, even as a joke. When talking with a young person, you can also discuss how the distribution of photos can be prevented if the youth decides, regardless of the risk, to share photos of themselves in a consensual relationship, for example.
- Remind them that you can never be absolutely sure who you are dealing with online. Make sure your child knows that an adult should always be told of any confusing or strange contacts and situations. Discuss with your child why they should be cautious about people contacting them. If a child has gotten to know a new person online, they should not meet with the person without the presence of their parent – not even via webcam.
- Think about the kind of digital footprint you want your child to leave. Remember that the adult is always responsible for the publication of their child’s photos and details. Think about what you share about your child online and remember their right to privacy. Should the child be asked whether you can share their photo?
- Set an example. By the way you use the web and social media, you are setting an example for your child on how to interact in these environments.
How can a professional working with children support their sexual health?
- Discuss different themes related to sexuality. Children and young people should be given evidence-based information about sexuality, sexual rights, sexual health, emotions and body image. It is a child’s right to receive researched information in a manner that is appropriate considering their age and level of development. By increasing and strengthening a child’s knowledge, skills and critical thinking, it is possible to prevent potential risky situations and give the child the tools needed to protect themselves in such situations. Furthermore, sex education reinforces a child’s skills of making responsible choices and decisions according to their age and level of development.
- Talk about all body parts using their proper names. It is important for a child to learn the names of all the parts of the body, including the genitals and other intimate areas. When talking to younger children, you can refer to these body parts with names such as vajayjay, willy and bottom. This way, the child will learn that it is ok to talk about these body parts and that there is no need to be ashamed or hide anything about them.
- Give your child information about sexual abuse. A child has the right to receive information about child sexual abuse in a manner that is appropriate for their age and level of development. This information will help the child to protect themselves. It is important for a child to recognise wrong and illegal acts against them, so that they can report them to a safe adult.
- Be a safe adult. Make sure your child knows that they can come to you with any concerns. Answer your child’s questions honestly – even if it means admitting that you don’t know the answer. Tell the child that you will find out and get back to them later. No subjects are off limits. A safe adult listens without judging and helps the child.
Remember that if you suspect that a child has been subjected to sexual abuse, as a professional you have a duty to report the incident to the police and child welfare services.
Also see our resource bank, which includes guides and materials for adults and children, as well as posters and social media images that can be used as an aid during discussions.
The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Save the Children Finland and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union.