An AFP covert online operative and senior child protection specialist Detective Superintendent Jayne Crossling from the AFP-led ACCCE, participated in Channel 9’s Parental Guidance television show (5 June 2023).
Parental Guidance is a reality television series in search for Australia’s best parenting style. The series includes 12 sets of parents who undergo challenges that put their parenting styles to the test. AFP experts worked closely with the show's producers for months to develop an online gaming scenario based off real reports made to the ACCCE. This included advice on grooming strategies and techniques commonly used by online child sex offenders.
The scenarios were limited to include only the initial stages of the grooming process and were carefully designed to highlight how quickly an online child sex offender can extract personal information from a child. The show provided a confronting, real-life example of how skilled online child sex offenders are when communicating with children, including instances where children have avoided further harm.
Detective Superintendent Crossling appeared as the show’s first ever in-studio guest, joining hosts Ally Langdon and Dr Justin Coulson to provide advice and educative support to parents. Detective Superintendent Crossling said the key message the AFP wanted parents and carers to take from the show was the importance of having regular conversations with your children about their online activities.
“The online world is a key part of most children’s lives these days and as digital natives they are generally much savvier in this world than their parents or carers,” Detective Superintendent Crossling said.
“Despite this, parents and carers still play a vital role in helping their children navigate the online world safely and should be actively guiding them online just as they do in the physical world.
“The online gaming challenge in Parental Guidance was a controlled environment but showed the reality of what the AFP sees everyday: unsuspecting children being groomed by online child sex offenders into revealing personal information or images.”
In-game chat and direct message features are common functions used by online child sex offenders to initiate contact with children and young people. It is important that parents and carers are aware of these features and know how to respond if their child is approached online.
If your child discloses that this has happened to them, respond calmly, without judgement, and believe them. A good place for parents and carers to find information and resources about online safety is ThinkUKnow.org.au.
ThinkUKnow Australia is an evidence-based education program led by the AFP, delivered nationally in partnership with police and industry partners to prevent online child sexual exploitation. On their website you will find; Gaming, devices and what you need to know and the children’s e-book Jack Changes the Game.
Jack Changes the Game is based on a real report to the ACCCE. The book is designed to be read to 5–8-year-olds by parents, carers, and educators. It gives age-appropriate advice on the importance of recognising online child sexual exploitation, including online grooming, how to take action and report to police.
The Parental Guidance episode is available to download from the channel nine website.
You can listen to the Parental Guidance episode on Dr Justin Coulson’s Happy Families podcast featuring Detective Superintendent Crossling.