Child's hands using keyboard with graphic of padlock

Swansea University’s Project DRAGON+ has celebrated its fresh contribution in the battle against online grooming at a special event to present its groundbreaking research insights and recommendations and launch core project outputs.

Over the past 15 months, Project DRAGON+ has spearheaded a pioneering initiative, amalgamating sophisticated linguistic analysis of online grooming chatlogs in English and Spanish with participatory research methods involving more than 150 practitioners from helplines and hotlines across 27 countries. Also collaborating with more than150 children and lived experience experts, the project has yielded unparalleled insights into offender-child communicative dynamics and novel understandings of children’s language use during online grooming.

Project lead Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus, from the School of Culture and Communication, said:  “Online grooming remains a pervasive threat, with available statistics highlighting its alarming prevalence, reaching epidemic proportions. The continued growth and complexity of online grooming underlines the urgent need for concerted action and continuous attention to the development of innovative solutions to protect children from online child sexual abuse.

“This event provided a great opportunity to bring together colleagues who are engaged in tackling this threat.”

The event explored the project's findings, outputs, and their implications. Attendees had opportunity to hear from, and engage with, key partners integral to the project's success. Speakers included representatives from Tech Coalition and Safe Online, collaborative funders of DRAGON+, whose support has been instrumental.

Marija Manojlovic, Executive Director, Safe Online, said: “Swansea University's groundbreaking research on online grooming provides unparalleled insights into offender-child dynamics. To prevent online child sexual abuse, it is critical to understand how grooming works and how we can disrupt it to prevent further harm. 

“Analyzing grooming chatlogs in English and Spanish, the study draws from helpline data across 27 countries, children's perspectives, and lived experience experts and provides richly contextualized insights into the issue. These findings will be key in informing the design and implementation of actionable technologies for the prevention and detection of online grooming, at scale.

“Work on these issues in languages other than English is also incredibly under-resourced, and the University’s efforts are significant in working to address this gap.”

Additionally, core partners such as the Marie Collins Foundation, Red PaPaz, and INHOPE shared their perspectives on the project's impact and discussed what is needed to ensure project outputs can be applied, rolled out and scaled up globally.

Victoria Green, CEO of Marie Collins Foundation, said: "We are proud to have embedded the voice of lived experience within this research. Project DRAGON+ has provided new and vital insights into the linguistics used both by offenders to groom children, and by children to resist grooming.

“These findings are key to developing technological solutions to detect and prevent the grooming and sexual abuse of children online. To ensure these findings can be applied to real word technology, in a way that does no further harm, continued engagement with those with lived experience is essential."

The event also included presentations by the DRAGON+ team, where they unveiled the ground-breaking DRAGON+ Blueprint containing comprehensive reports, resources, recommendations and a roadmap for implementation. These novel insights are poised to provide cutting-edge knowledge to enhance the design and implementation of actionable online grooming preventative and detective technologies on a global scale.



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