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Marking Safer Internet Day, Swansea University announces continued funding for vital research to help protect children online

A vital research project focussed on protecting children and young people from online abuse has secured additional continuation funding.

Swansea University’s DRAGON-S project focusses on the detection and prevention of online grooming.

Following a successful 2-year research and development phase, the project has now secured more than £150,000 in additional funding from Safe Online at End Violence Against Children and the Arts and Humanities Research Council Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) in order to continue to test and evaluate its work.

Online grooming is a crime that is increasing exponentially, leaving a devastating impact on child victims and their families.  

Through its research, the DRAGON-S project aims to address two major challenges faced by prevention and prosecution agencies:

  1. Extant countermeasures are limited by lack of understanding of how groomers communicate online; and,
  2. Agencies are being overwhelmed by the volume and communicative sophistication of groomers.

DRAGON-S uniquely combines international expertise in Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence to tackle these challenges through human-centred, innovative technology.  Two interrelated, research-based digital tools: an Online Grooming detector (DRAGON-SPOTTER) and an Online Grooming prevention tool (DRAGON-Shield) were developed and tested in 2021-2022.

The project team will now work alongside partners and end-user groups in Wales, England, New Zealand and Australia to undertake further testing. This will entail working collaboratively with over 200 child safeguarding practitioners and children, who will also pilot use of the DRAGON-SPOTTER and DRAGON-SHIELD tools.

The additional funding will also allow the tools’ to be evaluated in ‘real-world’ use to explore how they translate to practice and to gather intelligence about how to scale up and apply the tools in international contexts. The evaluation methodology will be informed by best practice in applied research, combining rigour, through ethically sound, diverse evaluation methods and practitioner-led flexibility.  

Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus from Project Dragon-S said:

“We are delighted to have secured additional funding which will allow us to continue to refine and test our research findings. Using state-of-the-art technology, Swansea University and its partners will continue to work towards keeping children safer online.”

Safer Internet Day takes place on 7 February 2023.


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