The MCF was created to offer a cohesive approach to addressing the needs of children abused via the internet and mobile technologies. Currently, both within the UK and internationally, the response to the needs of the child victims and their families is ad hoc and, in the main, does not take into account the particular differential impacts that such abuse has on those who are targeted. Such a state of affairs is contrary to the rights of children as laid out in Article 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates:
‘State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim; of any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflict. Such recovery and integration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.’
The Foundation welcomes the fact that, over the past fourteen years, an increasing amount of attention has been paid by stakeholders such as Government bodies, policy makers, internet service providers, mobile network operators, children’s charities and NGOs, social workers, teachers and police officers, to the issues of prevention, education and awareness-raising to help keep children safe online. However, it is currently apparent that there has been a disproportionate lack of resources applied to assisting those children who have been harmed through their activities online.
Addressing the needs of victims
The lack of knowledge, data and critical understanding of harm online has been highlighted by a number of high profile reports over recent years which have all recommended that more attention should be paid to addressing the needs of the child victims and developing models of intervention that take account of the differential impacts that abuse via new technologies brings with it. In their thematic paper on Child Pornography and Sexual Exploitation of Children Online Quayle et al. highlighted a number of unresolved issues:
- Lack of critical understanding of the harms posed by the new technologie
- Lack of training, expertise and capacity to investigate crimes against children, to protect them from harm and assist their recovery
- Lack of reliable data from many parts of the non-industrialised world which made generalisations from existing published studies more difficult
- The paucity of recovery programmes for children and young people abused and/or exploited through the new technologies.
There is a history of poor service provision for children who had been sexually abused prior to the onset of the internet and there are even fewer specialist services for children whose abuse has been mitigated through the use of one, or more, of the new technologies. There is also very little written regarding “what works” for children in this latter group.
The MCF believes that there is a need to invest in the formation of a cohesive, multi-disciplinary response to children harmed online - a response that should be based on current, and future, practice wisdom and evidence-based interventions. The MCF wishes to change national and international practice, policies and procedures and to produce models for good practice. It has established a wide network of stakeholder agencies both within the UK and internationally and believes that partnership collaboration is the most conducive way of best assisting children and their families.