Digital dangers and cyber-victimisation: a study of European adolescent online risky behaviour for sexual exploitation

DeMarco, Jeffrey, Cheevers, Carly, Davidson, J., Bogaerts, Stefan, Pace, Ugo, Aiken, Mary, Caretti, Vincenzo, Schimmenti, Adriano and Bifulco, Antonia 2017. Digital dangers and cyber-victimisation: a study of European adolescent online risky behaviour for sexual exploitation. Clinical Neuropsychiatry. 14 (1), pp. 104-112.


Objective: The engagement and use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) has increased exponentially across societies worldwide with implications for social and psychological development in young people. In this context, the risk of negative sexual experience and victimisation online is known to have real world consequences for young people. This article seeks to: explore the nature of adolescent risk taking online behaviour from a group of young adults in different European countries; develop types of online risk profiles; explore the impact of help-seeking and to consider the potential real world harmful consequences. Method: A survey was administered across the United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy of 18 to 25 year olds in higher education, asking them about their online experiences between the ages of 12 and 16. Risky behaviour on and off-line, types of victimisation (on and offline) and sexual solicitation requests online were analysed together with help-seeking behaviour. Results: Four profiles concerning adolescent risky behaviours were identified through cluster analysis. Each were distinguishable by a pattern of latent constructs linked to risk offline and online. Two were considered normative (adapted adolescents and inquisitive online) and two high risk (risk-taking aggressive and sexually inquisitive online). Additionally, regression analysis demonstrated significant factors linked to predicting both likelihood of meeting an adult for sexual purposes, and help-seeking behaviour. Conclusions: The profiles developed are a useful tool for educators, police and health and social care practitioners in identifying adolescents at risk in order to undertake preventative work. Common help-seeking behaviour from peers could be used to effect interventions.