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Abstract

Sexual abuse is a problem affecting the psychosocial development of many children all over the world. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that sexual abuse is spread across all demographic, ethnic and family groups, in both males and females, and perpetrators can include those outside the family circle as well as within it. In the last decade the whole new phenomenon of Internet-based sexual offending against minors has brought new challenges for those working in both the clinical and prevention fields. In the world today, most victims of child sexual abuse still remain silent, alone and without help. At the same time, most children and teens do not receive basic sex education, preventive information and life skills that they need to grow up healthy, safe and happy. And after the promotion of programmes targeting children, there is growing evidence that perpetrators also need to become a target for prevention. If they are detected, recognized and helped at an early stage of their abusing career, extinction of their sexual drive towards children can be promoted effectively and with positive long-term effects. This paper describes what has been done to date in the field of school-based primary prevention to decrease victimisation risks among the new generations. It discusses how primary prevention has been developed in the past and the new prevention needs of children and teens belonging to the “digital natives” generation. Despite the lack of clear evidence derived from studies of effectiveness to show that concerted action in schools is the best resource for primary prevention in this field, to date the available meta-analyses and guidelines confirm that this is one of the methods with the best potential for effectiveness in this field. In the light of these remarks, the article also discusses how the contribution of the neurosciences has made possible the promotion of new procedures for preventive activities with children and adolescents, with particular reference to the Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) model adopted by the World Health Organisation as the paradigm for the implementation of prevention projects aimed at children and adolescents.

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