A new animation and report recommendations, developed by Swansea University’s online safety DRAGON-S project, will provide vital tools to assist with anti-grooming training. 

Led by Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus, project DRAGON-S (Developing Resistance Against Online Grooming - Spot and Shield) tackles online child sexual grooming through two interrelated tools: An Online Grooming Detector (DRAGON-Spotter) and an Online Grooming Prevention Portal (DRAGON-Shield).

The animation What’s in a Word? offers a simple and engaging introduction into research findings around how manipulative communication works in online child sexual grooming.

Alongside Strong at the Broken Places report recommendations, made by the project’s Lived Experience Experts’ Group, the animation formed the focus of project DRAGON-S outreach event Placing Children’s Voices at the Heart of Technology-Enabled Support. This event took place online and at Swansea University’s Digital Technium Centre on June 30, 2022.

Developed in 2021-2022, the ground-breaking project is funded by the End Violence Against Children Fund and supported by project partners Welsh Government, Tarian ROCU and the Marie Collins Foundation. The animation forms a core part of DRAGON-Shield, the project’s anti-grooming interactive training platform, to be rolled out across the UK and internationally.

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “Protecting children and young people from harm will always be a priority for the Welsh Government. We must help children and young people navigate the online world safely and help them to stop things going wrong.

“Placing children’s voices at the centre of what we do is something I feel very strongly about. The DRAGON-S project is vital in protecting our children and young people from online harm and abuse and ensuring the voices of those affected by online grooming are at the forefront of the work we are doing to increase online safety.”

Representatives of the Lived Experience Experts’ Group, supported by Professor Tink Palmer MBE, said: “The contributions from the group have proved inspirational. However, doing this work well is challenging and we have all learnt along the way. The recommendations and report aim to capture and share that learning to better embed work with those with lived experience as standard practice.

"Establishing these sorts of groups should be routine when working on projects or products or developing policy relating to child sexual abuse. But for this to happen there needs to be much more systematic understanding of what needs to be in place. Adequate funding and capacity need to be allocated to provide the resources necessary to empower all involved.”

Project DRAGON-Shield co-lead and Swansea University research associate in Public Policy and Linguistics, Ruth Mullineux-Morgan, added: “DRAGON-Shield demonstrates how technology-enabled support can be harnessed to better embed children’s and survivor’s voices at the heart of developing solutions. The tools will be used to support those who experience child sexual abuse, specifically online child sexual grooming.

“We are incredibly proud of our collaborative project with lived experience experts and foregrounding of children’s voices in developing DRAGON-Shield. There should be no silos when it comes to keeping children safe online. Project DRAGON-S is wholeheartedly committed to genuine prevention technology co-creation with researchers, child-safeguarding practitioners, industry and especially users globally.”

In addition to working closely with Lived Experience Experts’ Group (which has ensured that the voice of child sexual abuse survivors has run throughout the project), DRAGON-S has also worked with Wales-based animators, Sleeping Giant, to create voice and develop an original score for What’s in a Word?

Find out more about the innovative work of Swansea University’s Project DRAGON-S

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