Over 300 Million Children Victimized by Online Sexual Exploitation

May 28, 2024

A shocking recent report has revealed that over 300 million children are victims of online sexual abuse each year. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and UNSW Sydney found that around 12.6% of the global child population has experienced non-consensual sharing, exposure, and distribution of sexual images and videos in the past year.

The report, which is part of the first global index on child sexual exploitation and abuse, also discovered that about 301 million children worldwide (12.5% of children globally) have been subjected to online solicitation. This includes unwanted sexual communication, sexting, and requests for sexual acts from adults or peers. Predators are increasingly using tactics like “sextortion” to extort money from victims by threatening to share explicit content.

This issue is described as a global health pandemic that has been hidden for too long and is severely affecting children. “It occurs in every country, it’s growing exponentially, and it requires a global response,” the report states. The study found particularly high rates of offending in the United States, where 1 in 9 men admitted to online sexual crimes against children, as well as in the UK and Australia.

Child abuse experts stress the urgent need to treat this crisis as a public health emergency. “These aren’t harmless images: they are deeply damaging, and the abuse continues with every view and the failure to take down this abusive content,” said Professor Deborah Fry of the University of Edinburgh.

With files being reported to authorities once every second, researchers are calling for a coordinated global response. This includes improved data sharing, specialized investigator training, and stronger regulation of online platforms to protect millions of vulnerable young lives worldwide.

Here are important materials for children to learn about online safety.

By Alice Njoki

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