Can Simulations Aid Professionals in the Fight Against Child Abuse?

In my previous blog, I explored the idea of child simulations helping children who have experienced abuse communicate and share their testimony of their abuse. I want to expand upon that idea, but this time explore how child protection professionals can identify, create, or enhance a variety of interactive and innovative child protection simulations to aid in their work toward intervening, preventing and healing children from abuse. In the book, Teaching In A Digital Age, Tony Bates asks the question: “How can technology increase empathy and understanding (for example, through creating virtual environments or simulations where students play the role of others)? How can technology be used to provide scenarios that enable skills development and testing in a safe environment”? Historically, the cost of developing technology, such as that of simulations, was expensive and cost prohibitive. However, as Bates note, “in recent years the costs of creating realistic simulations has dropped dramatically”, and this is where I believe this area of technology can be invaluable in the assistance and development of child protection professionals in the fight against child abuse.

I have shared previously that through multi-disciplinary child advocacy centers, children who have been abused find a safe environment where they can disclose their abuse to a trained forensic interviewer. As I look to expand upon this child protection approach, I reflected upon ISTE Standard 1.4, which reads: “Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions”. ISTE 1.4a extends the standard to encourage students to know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.  This is the standard and point of reflection which spurred my question – is it possible for students and/or child protection professionals to design a simulation tool to identify and solve problems associated with the intervention, prevention and treatment of abuse?

I discovered a 2022 article out of the University of Kent, titled, Using Simulations to Revolutionize Child Protection. This article references the work of Professor Jane Reeves and Professor David Shemmings of the University’s Centre for Child Protection. Specifically, this article looked to “get to the heart of child protection training by using innovative ideas and the latest technology…to design programs for a variety of multi-professional child protection workers, including social care, education, health, law enforcement, law, and specialist child welfare services.

The findings from this article highlight inspiration garnered from gaming technology in 2011 where the work of these Professors consisted of “adopting an interactive method of child protection training and created highly engaging simulations on the subjects of child sexual abuse; neglect; courtroom skills; child sexual exploitation; radicalization and online grooming; and managing sexual offenders”. The article also highlights that “since 2012, through a suite of interactive, innovative child protection simulations, [the Centre] has been keeping children safe by educating a multi-professional group of child protection workers and young people in the UK and beyond”.

What has been discovered through the achievements in this study are exciting as it relates to the preparation and skill enhancement of child protection professionals. Areas of focus through this study included improving the court room skills of more than 14,000 social workers; increasing the knowledge about how to prevent young people from being radicalized and groomed of more than 6,000 educators; educating more than 278,000 people on how to identify risks of sexual exploitation by using simulations; and using simulations to educate young people on grooming which resulted in a 10% decrease in calls to Childline counselors.

As I have shared before, and will consistently reinforce, children should never have to experience the horrors of abuse. For those who unfortunately have that direct experience with abuse, they should know and experience care, consideration, and professionalism from each child protection professional they encounter. Because every child is unique, every traumatic situation that an abused child experiences is unique. That is where simulation technology becomes so fascinating. The ability for child protection professionals to practice, develop, and refine their skills in a way that reflects real life situations, yet does not allow for the re-traumatization of a child as they learn and grow, is a true game changer. Simulations will not only help care in the full and appropriate collection of information from a traumatized child – but also in helping to hold abusers accountable, and begin developing a pattern of data that hopefully can be used to intervene and save children from abuse sooner and with greater efficiency and success.

I believe this resource applies to ISTE Standards for Learning 1.4 Innovative Designer because as this article highlights, “the approach of pioneering training pedagogy using simulations has included a double pronged approach to keeping children safe; first, supporting the education of young people of online dangers and second, providing continuing professional development to multidisciplinary child protection practitioners on neglect, sexual abuse, courtroom skills and grooming”.


Bates, A. W. (2022). Teaching in a digital age. Retrieved from  

Collins, Emily. (2022). Using Simulations to Revolutionize Child Protection. Retrieved from University of Kent.

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