Technology Assisted HSB partnership between AIM and NSPCC author Richard Swann


The AIM Project, in collaboration with NSPCC, set out to develop an evidence-based guidance tool, created by AIM associate Richard Swann, to assist practitioners when assessing young people with technology-assisted harmful sexual behaviour (TA-HSB). Our review of the research literature exploring technology-assisted harmful sexual behaviour (TA-HSB) identified very little pre-existing research. This prompted us to carry out our own research exploring the behaviours, backgrounds and characteristics of children and young people with TA-HSB who have accessed the NSPCC’s HSB service. The findings from these two pieces of research suggest the profile of children and young people with TA-HSB differs to those with offline HSB. Previous research drawing upon recorded offence rates indicates little overlap between the viewing of indecent images of children and offline contact sexual offences. However, our own research identified that almost half of the children and young people accessing our HSB service had engaged in both offline HSB and TA-HSB. Importantly, the level of overlap between these two behaviours differed according to the use of pornography or engagement in other forms of TA-HSB. We also discovered variability in the recognition and understanding of TA-HSB amongst professionals, and a tendency towards a more punitive response to TA-HSB than offline HSB. Before an actuarial risk assessment can be developed for young people with TA-HSB, we need to learn much more about this behaviour and those who engage in it. We also need to recognise that a substantial proportion of children and young people may engage in both TA-HSB and offline HSB, and should therefore aim to provide an integrated, holistic assessment of HSB. Informed by these research findings, the NSPCC and AIM project have developed a guidance tool and training package to assist practitioners when assessing TA-HSB. This is designed to complement pre-existing assessment tools for offline HSB until a more integrated assessment can be developed.

Pat Branigan (Development Manager NSPCC) noted

‘this practice guidance is informed by evidence from two recent NSPCC Research Projects. This important research outlines what we currently know internationally about this phenomenon and explores some of the key characteristics that we are seeing from the NSPCC Turn the Page HSB service…… This Practice Guide is the response to our review of the available national and international evidence’.

This guidance replaces the 2009 iAIM framework and incorporates the most uptodate evidence from the AIM-NSPCC partnership to help professionals deal with internet based sexual offending. In 2017 our understanding of how technology may facilitate sexual offending amongst adolescents has deepened and this guidance is offered to help practitioners safely navigate their way through an increasing complex child abuse environment.

Cost of the guidance is £50 plus £6 p&p. Order from the store section of this website or directly from the AIM Project; Contact for more details

For a link to the Research review;