The children's charity has launched an interactive app to help young people avoid the danger of sexual exploitation

An image from one of the app's scenarios
An image from one of the app's scenarios

What is it?

Wud U? is a new app created by Barnardo’s, designed to help teachers and other professionals who work with young people explain how to keep themselves safe from sexual exploitation. The app follows three male and three female characters through several scenarios that a teenager might face and could potentially lead to abuse – for example, being taken to a party in an unfamiliar place or being asked to send an explicit photograph. The user is asked questions about how they might have responded to the situation at different points and receives advice based upon the decisions they make.

What else is on the app?

The app, which was created in partnership with Microsoft, contains contact details for support services and a summary of the most important things young people should consider when forming relationships. There are also links for professionals and parents to follow that give information about the warning signs of child sexual exploitation.

What does it look like?

The scenarios have been animated by the illustrator Matt Richards and give the app a young, colourful and modern feel.

What impact does Barnardo’s think the app will have?

Barnardo’s director Michelle Lee-Izu says a vital part of empowering children to protect themselves against sexual exploitation is getting them to think for themselves about which scenarios might put them at risk. "We want all children to be able to identify what a healthy relationship looks like, so that when they are with a partner, at a party or just chatting online they make good decisions," she says.

"Barnardo’s worked with more than 2,000 sexually exploited children last year and we see first-hand the devastating impact these crimes can have. We need to do everything we can to prevent this terrible abuse from happening, and a key part of that is giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe by getting themselves out of risky situations."

What else is going on?

The app is part of a wider campaign to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation. Barnardo's released a YouTube video sharing the story of a victim last month, and has launched a crisis appeal because of an increase in the number of young people seeking help with this issue.

How can it be downloaded?

The app is available to download free of charge from the Windows store, the Windows phone store, the Apple store and Google Play.

Third Sector verdict

There have been some worrying statistics about child sexual exploitation in recent months, including Barnardo's report of a 34 per cent rise in the number of young people seeking support from it, so this app is a welcome addition to the advice and information services that are available. Putting them in the shoes of someone who has been sexually exploited and seeing the factors that put them at risk should help young people to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

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