Every 30 seconds a child makes their first click online. Although the internet offers great opportunities to learn and connect with others, it also has a dark side, where children are vulnerable. It is estimated that at any one time approximately 750,000 individuals are looking to connect with children online for sexual purposes, including grooming for sex.

Online groomers use language to form a relationship with the children they prey on, to gain and then betray children’s trust, exploiting children’s wonderful sociability, kind-heartedness, and curiosity. Project DRAGON-S is working to keep children safe from this form of technology-assisted child abuse (DRAGON-S stands for Developing Resistance Against Grooming Online – Spot and Shield). This platform has been collaboratively developed with Legal Innovation Lab Wales, supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. 

During 2021-2022 our research and development team will be developing state-of-the-art, ethically-responsible tools (Spotter and Shield) to help detect and prevent online grooming.

If you would like to find out more about our work, this website provides information about the team, links to publicly available research and updates on our project development. 

All Project DRAGON-S material published on this website is licensed under a CC-BY

Project DRAGON-s explained

In this video Principal Investigator Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus talks about how Project DRAGON-s is using expertise in linguistics, artificial intelligence, criminology, public policy and psychology – and working with partners from around the world including child protection NGOs, policy makers and law enforcement agencies – to develop ethically responsible tools to protect children from online grooming.

Spotter tool

Dragon Spotter tool

Our Spotter tool will integrate Linguistics and AI to detect online grooming content, pinpointing the manipulative tactics that groomers use: from making children feel effectively isolated to communicating sexual intent implicitly and explicitly to them. 

Our Spotter tool will aid law enforcement’s online grooming detection work. 

The Spotter tool will have a significant impact on our ability to keep children safe from online grooming, and successful tool development in English can furthermore pave the way for extension to other languages. 

Shield Tool

Dragon-S Shield Tool

Our Shield tool will relay specialist knowledge to child safeguarding professionals about groomers’ and children’s communicative behaviour during online grooming through a learning portal. It will also include a Linguistics/AI powered chatbot. 

The Shield tool will strengthen child safeguarding professionals’ ability to prevent children from being sexually groomed online. It will also allow end users to understand and better trust the AI decision-making process when identifying online grooming content. 

Our Published research

Download some of our latest research:

  1. Report of: Themelidis, L., Lorenzo-Dus, N and Jain, B. (October, 2022) Practitioner views about online harms in India
  2. Infographic of: Lorenzo-Dus, N. Kinzel, A. and Di Cristofaro (2020). The communicative modus operandi on online child sexual groomers – recurring patterns in their language use, Journal of Pragmatics. DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2019.09.010 - Infographic
  3. Report of: Roberts, S. Lorenzo-Dus, N and Meyrick, J (2021) Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: The Views of Police Officers on Offending Involving Indecent Images of Children - Offending Involving Indecent Images of Children (OIIOC) report

Read more about our work


Research Associates

Research Assistants

Swansea University gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided for this project by the Safe Online Initiative at End Violence. End Violence’s Safe Online Initiative, in close partnership with grantees and partners, is leading on global efforts to make the internet safe for children by investing for impact in programmes that work and generating evidence to inform advocacy and collective action. 

End Volence against children logo

Swansea University also gratefully acknowledges the support provided by the UKRI Impact Acceleration Account and European Regional Development Fund, Legal Innovation Lab.