Tech savvy vs tech safe: Sexual abuse in football and how we’re part of the change

Published:  Thu 3 Aug 2017

Any situation where a predatory adult has power over a young person is an opportunity for an abuse of that power, and ultimately for abuse of that child. We’ve seen this so heartbreakingly demonstrated within football, and the reporting of historical abuse.

Thanks to bravery of sportsmen and sportswomen who’ve come forward, safeguarding procedures are being examined, re-written and made tougher to support the next generation of young sports professionals. This just didn’t exist 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), as part of the UK Safer Internet Centre launched Game On – unique educational workshops for young people tackling sexual behaviour in the online world. The issues covered are diverse, and always current, such as sexting and the law, consent and what it means, bullying vs banter, sextortion, pornography, and, child sexual abuse imagery and reporting it.

Adults tend to feel that young people are for the most part tech-savvy, but this does not mean that they are always tech-safe. The messages young people get around online sexual behaviour often comes from their peers, and it is only by challenging this perception of what is ‘normal’ and by asking young people to think more critically about their behaviours that a change in that behaviour can take place. Our programme of workshops helps make us part of that change.

We’re not just educating young people, we’re asking them to step up and become heroes. We know that a young man who has heard of IWF is more likely to make good, positive, online decisions when faced with tricky online sexual situations.

Through education, young people are more likely to report child sexual abuse imagery if they see it online. Their one report can have a lasting and clear effect for the victim who was abused.

We are asking young sportsmen and sportswomen everywhere to hear the call to arms to do the right thing online, and as well as protect others, know how to protect yourself. We’re asking sports clubs nationally to build the best safeguarding practices possible. Our aim is to roll out our workshops to as many clubs as we can. Everton was the first, of what we hope to be many. The final whistle on keeping all children and young people safe at all times has yet to be blown, but in the meantime – GAME ON.

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