ChildX: Perpetrators hide behind gaming avatars to groom children

The child rights organisation ChildX, which works to stop paid sexual abuse against children, is now demanding legislation holding gaming companies accountable for taking measures to secure their platforms for children. The campaign also spreads information to the public and parents by illustrating how perpetrators can hide behind gaming avatars.

Perpetrators are where children are. Today, 9 out of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 19 play various types of online games, and nearly one in four students has been contacted by an adult for sexual purposes before the age of 15. ChildX wants to raise awareness on how children are targeted through gaming platforms, and that something must be done to make the internet a safer place for children. Today, perpetrators in games can easily hide behind an avatar, start chatting with children, and then move the conversation to encrypted chats.

“Using flattery, bribes, lies, and persistence, perpetrators persuade children to send pictures and videos of themselves. They often use threats, and sometimes it leads to serious crimes such as rape. All of this hidden behind an avatar. Parents are powerless, and children are left defenseless. Gaming companies must do more to protect children on their platforms, and we have seen that voluntary measures are not enough – legislation is required,” says Ida Östensson, Secretary-General of ChildX.

The initiative is spread through films, images, and radio segments where ChildX (in addition to legislative changes) aims to inform the public and parents about what actually can happen when their children are in their “safe space”.

ChildX’s five tips to parents and relatives of children who play:

  1. Talk to your child about digital life.

If you regularly ask your child about their experiences online, you create an environment that makes it easier for the child to tell you if something has happened. Ask how their online experience has been, just as you ask about how school was. Ask questions like, “Have you or your friend ever encountered strange adults on the internet?” Talk about rights and responsibilities and go over what’s okay to do online.

  • For young children – help choose profile picture and username.

Be with the children and choose a profile picture and username for the game or app that, as a parent, you find appropriate and doesn’t reveal the child’s name or address. Help your child create strong and good passwords. The picture could, for example, be an image of the child’s favorite character or artist.

  • Test games and apps yourself.

Download and test games and social media that the child uses to understand how they work and how people talk in comment fields or chat functions. Consider how your child could encounter a perpetrator, if there are any features that encourage contact between players, and what culture exists on the platform regarding adding strangers or sharing usernames with other platforms.

  • Unpleasant videos and images

Almost 1 in 8 children aged 12-19 has received nude images sent to them by someone they don’t know. Ask if the child has received any videos or pictures that made them feel uncomfortable. Also, explain that it’s illegal to send violent or sexual material to children, and if it happens, it can be reported to the police.

  • Talk about grooming

It can be difficult to start talking about grooming, but it’s important. Ask questions like: “How often do you talk to people online?”, “Do you have any friends you’ve met online?”, “Has anyone made you feel strange or nervous online?”. Explain that there are people online who want to harm children, who may pretend to be peers or exploit the child’s curiosity.

Five facts about sexual abuse of children in games:

  1. 9 out of 10 children aged 8-19 play various types of computer games on connected devices.
  • Among individuals who commit sexual offenses against children online, 41% say they have tried to contact children through online games.
  • It takes an average of 45 minutes for perpetrators to groom children in gaming environments, but it can also take as little as 19 seconds.
  • One in four Swedish students has been contacted by an adult for sexual purposes before the age of 15.
  • Between 2021 and 2022, the number of reported grooming cases increased by 82%.


Client: ChildX
Advertising Agency: NORD DDB

Producation company Audio: Flickorna Larsson

Digital agency: Digital Fans
Production agency: Slutet är nära

Director: Jonas Hong Soo Yoon 

Source: Nord DDB

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