Young people often confronted with sexually undesirable behavior online

Young people often confronted with sexually undesirable behavior online

Almost everywhere in Europe, young people sooner or later will be confronted with online sexual harassment. Two out of three young people (68 per cent) say they have been confronted with at least one form of online sexual violence during their youth. The parents often know nothing: 41 per cent of children say they do not tell their parents or other adults what they did online when they were 18 or younger. This is according to research by WeProtect Global Alliance. The interest group commissioned market researcher Economist Impact to conduct research among 2,000 young adults aged 18 and older in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Poland.

A quarter of the victims were under the age of 12

The research shows shocking results. More than half of the respondents (55 per cent) indicate that a stranger, a peer or a well-known adult has ever asked an adult to do something sexual that made them feel uncomfortable. A quarter of them (28 per cent) were 12 years or younger at the time. The vast majority of forms of online sexual harassment take place via private channels on mobile devices. Three-quarters of the participants (73%) say this happened via smartphone. In half of the cases, sexually suggestive images or videos were shared through private channels. Eighteen per cent did so via social media or other public sources.

Girls and minorities are more likely to be victims of online sexual harassment than boys

The majority of the victims (73 per cent) removed or blocked the person in question. Three in ten young people (29 per cent) reported the problem online or decided to talk about it with an adult. The average age at which young people were first exposed to online sexual harassment is 13.8 years. Girls are generally more likely to be victims of this than boys (79 per cent versus 57 per cent). No less than 83 per cent of the members of the LGBTIQA+ community indicate that they have experienced sexual harassment online at least once during their youth. This is 77 per cent among ethnic minorities.

Dangers and Risks of Sexting

Sharing nude photos and images can be exciting and is an outlet for many young people today to experiment with their sexuality. Most experts see it as a healthy development but, at the same time, point out the dangers of sexting. Think of someone who decides to make the image and video material public or to share it with acquaintances. The consequences of this can haunt the victim for years to come. Old nude photos can also cause problems later in life, for example, if you are applying for a job and an employer comes across nude images of you on the internet. It can also lead to psychological and mental complaints and reputational damage. Finally, victims are exposed to other dangers, such as cyberstalking, sexual harassment and revenge porn.

Child Safety advocates for better online protection of young people

Nude images of victims are increasingly visible to everyone. In the past, you had to search the corners and depths of the dark web for such photos. Nowadays, nude photos and child pornographic images can be found online. According to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), 32% of all child pornography is stored on Dutch servers. Children should therefore be better protected online, says Corinne Dettmeijer, Ambassador of Child Safety in Europe. “Child abuse is sickening, and it has to stop. We cannot allow encrypted online channels to become a safe haven for the acquisition and exchange of illegal content,” she says. According to her, a ‘comprehensive and effective legal framework’ is needed to protect young people against online abuse and sexual exploitation. Child Safety in Europe is pleased that policymakers in Brussels passed a bill last year to combat online child abuse. “If this legislation is approved, the technology sector can better take its responsibility and deploy detection tools in a proactive and regulated manner to combat online abuse of children,” the interest group said.

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