On September 27, 2018, the eighth consultation on the topic of child abuse on the Internet took place at the Faculty of Social Sciences under the title “Treatment of e-abuses of children: from theory to practice”. The organizers Hotline Spletno oko, the Safer Internet Centre of Slovenia, the Criminal Police Directorate of General Police Department and the Association for Informatics and Telecommunications at the Chamber of Commerce of Slovenia have again noted a great interest of the expert public to address this issue. The conference was attended by more than 220 people from police, prosecutor’s offices, courts, social services, NGOs, education and industry.
The vice-dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, izr. prof. dr. Katja Lozar Manfreda welcomed the participants in the opening speech of the conference and highlighted the recognisability and significance of the Hotline Spletno oko. For eleven years, the hotline has enabled anonymous reporting of child sexual abuse images and has made the public aware of the related issues.
Director of the Criminal Police Directorate, mag. Boštjan Lindav, warned that the modern technology brings both good and bad to society. He expects new challenges in identifying and protecting victims and approaching the perpetrators of these acts. He emphasized the importance of developing new preventive measures and the importance of educating professionals for the protection of children. As the use of modern technologies does not know any boundaries, he said, multidisciplinary cooperation is important at all levels, both at home and internationally. He explained that in 2017 the police dealt with 187 (in 2016 110) criminal offences of display, production, possession and mediation of pornographic material under Article 176 of the Criminal Code.
Director of the Association for Informatics and Telecommunications at the Chamber of Commerce of Slovenia Nenad Šutanovac believes that the children and adolescents are vulnerable because of curiosity and naivety, while their parents are often unaware of the dangers that spill over the web. He also emphasized the importance of digital literacy.
In the plenary lecture professor of Forensic Clinical Psychology from the University of Edinburgh dr. Ethel Quayle presented research on e-abuse and the importance of these for preventive measures. Research shows, among other things, that every fifth child has already been intimately exposed online, and every ninth has already been persuaded to those actions online. She said that the acts that adults recognize as abuses are often not recognized by children as such. She also highlighted data that indicate that the younger the child, the worse form of abuse they endure.
Sabina Klaneček from the Ministry of Justice presented her new project called House for children. This is a house, where children who are victims of crimes of sexual abuse, domestic violence or cruel treatment come to. It offers treatment by pedagogues, psychologists, physicians, social workers as well as police officers. A forensic interview is carried out for the purpose of any procedures, as well as for the help of the child. The purpose of this house is to ease the stress of criminal proceedings as much as possible, when in one or another role they find the most vulnerable members of our society. For a year and a half the service will be performed in one house, then it will be evaluated and service upgraded. Three of such houses are planned.
The focus of this year’s conference was on a wide range of workshops, where participants could acquire concrete knowledge to deal with abusive and controversial Internet content. These included, inter alia, possible preventive measures and challenges in the safe use of modern technologies, the dangers associated with i.e. sexting, ways of identifying various forms of e-abuse and guidelines for dealing with incidents in school.
The Hotline Spletno oko project and Safer Internet Centre are carried out by the University of Ljubljana, the Faculty of Social Sciences, Arnes, the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth (SAFY) and the MISSS Institute, financed by the European Commission and the Ministry of Public Administration.