Simulation ‘game’ to combat online grooming and sex trafficking

Olivia Miller

A new culturally informed educational ‘game’ has been developed to help educate children and young people across Thailand and Cambodia on how to spot the signs of online grooming and recognise the tactics that abusers and traffickers employ.

Known as May and Bay, the simulations follow(s) the stories of two children, as they encounter the insidious world of online grooming. Designed for children aged 8-14, the mock, virtual online interactive scenarios encourage children’s critical thinking and autonomous decision-making skills in an online environment and empowers children to understand how their actions can keep their characters – and therefore themselves – safe.

Developed by the University’s Centre for Child Protection, in collaboration with ECPAT International, A21, Playerthree, and the University of Stirling, the game aims to enable the comprehensive training of professional practitioners and those working directly with children in Cambodia and Thailand, with the age-appropriate tools to educate children about online safety.

Jane Reeves, Emeritus Professor at the Centre for Child Protection said: ‘Online child sexual exploitation and abuse and sex trafficking are ongoing global problems particularly in Thailand and Cambodia. Thanks to the local knowledge of partners ECPAT, A21 and local focus groups, May and Bay will demonstrate these dangers and help children and young people to learn in a way that is meaningful to them – in a safe environment.’

Professor Reeves and the Centre for Child Protection alongside Playerthree gaming company have previously developed a number of digital games on child protection issues that are successful, at scale and well received by professionals and young people.

This project was funded by End Violence Against Children (End Violence Partnership).