Sexual abuse of children has been an issue in Australia for years, but the internet has brought it to the fore once again.
The Australian Federal Police has issued an alert to warn parents that their children may be exposed to images and videos which could “promote” sex abuse.
This warning was issued by a spokesperson for the AFP, the Australian Federal Child Protection Agency.
“As a parent of a young child, the most important thing you can do is to ensure your child is protected from online sexual exploitation,” the spokesperson told the ABC.
“If your child has seen or received a sexually explicit image or video of a child, it is strongly recommended that you report it to ChildLine or call the police.”
The AFP’s warning is a response to a call from a woman in Sydney who reported that her eight-year-old daughter had seen and shared images of her being sexually assaulted and that she believed her daughter was in danger.
The AFP also urged Australians to check their own websites for any messages or links they may see.
“The vast majority of sexual exploitation of children online is not directed towards children,” the AFP spokesperson said.
“However, there are examples of material that does appear to promote child sexual abuse.”
The warning comes after the release of an independent report by Australia’s Child Protection Authority, which found that up to 80 per cent of children in Australia had been sexually abused by a relative, teacher or friend in the last five years.
While there is no official definition of sexual abuse, experts believe it can include sexualised images of children being touched or filmed in sexualised situations.
A spokesperson for Australian Child Protection, Alison Saunders, told the BBC the warning was “the first we’ve seen in the national spotlight”.
“I would hope the Australian public is aware of the warning, but it’s a first step,” she said.
The statement said that if the AFP had been notified of a suspected sexual exploitation in Australia it would take action immediately.
“We can’t get to zero and we have to do our part to protect the victims of child sexual exploitation.”