ONLINE therapy could stop paedophiles in their tracks, claim scientists.
A study found offering counselling to men looking at sexual images of children online could help them kick the sick habit.
They said treating the urges as a mental health issue early on could stop blokes harming kids in real life.
Psychiatrists at the Karolinska Institutet in Swede tested their therapy by recruiting men they found on seedy dark web forums.
The researchers got 160 people to sign up for a trial of eight weeks of cognitive behavioural therapy.
The sessions were held entirely online without the therapist knowing their identity.
Half the men were given regular counselling and the other half had CBT, which aims to change the way a person thinks.
Both groups “substantially” reduced the amount of time they spent looking at indecent images during the study, with a bigger drop in the CBT group.
Study author Johanna Lätth said: “Ideally, we’d like to see the behaviour cease completely, but the results give us hope that there’s a way to treat these individuals.
“We believe it could be a valuable complement to other interventions that aim to prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.”
Children’s charity the NSPCC estimates a shocking one in 20 kids in the UK – vyf persent – experience sexual abuse.
And child pornography is on the rise, with nearly 85million files reported globally in 2021 – up by a third compared to 2020.
UK charity Stop It Now last year saw an increase in phone calls from people worried about themselves or someone else.
People who feel sexually attracted to children often want help but are too afraid to ask for it, sê kenners.
It is illegal to look at, take or exchange sexual images of anyone under the age of 18 and offenders face years in prison.
Dr Christoffer Rahm, an author of the study, bygevoeg: “Child sexual abuse is a multifaceted problem and we need to address it with different strategies.
“We find support for healthcare to have a role in this, especially on the prevention side to reach out to people before they commit an offence.”
Writing in the journal Internet Interventions, the researchers said they will now trial their programme in eight other countries.