The internet has changed what it means to be a kid.
One in three internet users worldwide is a child (aged 3-17).
Every half second, a child makes their first click online.
More than 800 million children are using social media.
Kids today are part of a digital ecosystem.
It is an endless trove of digital information at their disposal, which grows bigger each day.
In a given minute in 2021, users streamed 694,000 hours worth of content on YouTube, 452,000 hours on Netflix, 167 million videos on TikTok (Domo, 2021).
In a given minute in 2021, users sent 2 million messages on Snapchat, and 668,000 messages on Discord (Domo, 2021).
In a given minute in 2021, users shared 240,000 photos, 575,000 tweets (Domo, 2021). And more than 500 hours of content were uploaded on YouTube. (WeForum, 2021).
It’s become incredibly easy for anyone to share all this data. The total amount of data created, captured, copied, and consumed globally is forecast to increase rapidly, reaching 64.2 zettabytes in 2020, and is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes by 2025. (Statista).
Children today are no longer limited by walls or bound by borders.
The internet has opened up new opportunities for education, information sharing, and connecting people in ways that were unimaginable even a generation ago.
Children today are no longer limited by walls or bound by borders. The internet provides them with the option to learn, connect, create, be entertained, and explore their identities and interests, wherever they are, and with only a few keystrokes.
Unfortunately, those seeking to harm children have access to the same opportunities.
Those seeking to harm children are not bound by walls or borders, and can exploit the power of the internet to reach children.
As the internet’s reach grows, every day, the number of children at risk of online sexual exploitation and abuse grows along with it.
What is online child sexual exploitation and abuse?
Online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) refers to the usage of the internet or communication technologies to facilitate the sexual abuse of children and adolescents.
Examples of child sexual exploitation and abuse can exist in many forms - grooming, sexual extortion, sexting, live-streaming, perceived first-person (often called "self-generated"), and child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). Although there is no single legal definition for online CSAM, this term - which is still legally known as child pornography in the U.S. - generally refers to sexually explicit imagery involving a child.
Child Sexual Abuse Materials (CSAM)
CSAM includes still images, videos, and illustrated, computer-generated or other forms of realistic depictions, as well as live streaming broadcasts of a child in a sexually explicit context, or engaging in sexually explicit acts.
Grooming broadly describes the tactics abusers use to build trust and rapport with a child in order to gain access to that child for the purpose of sexual activity or exploitation. This type of victimization takes place across every platform; social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms, etc., and may include instances when a child is being groomed to take sexually explicit images and/or ultimately meet face-to-face with someone for sexual purposes, or to engage in a sexual conversation online or, in some instances, to sell/trade the child’s sexual images.
Livestreaming allows abusers to create child sexual abuse content in real-time. Livestreaming of child sexual abuse may include adult offenders who direct the child abuse whilst the acts are streamed live to an audience, or coerce children into using livestreaming platforms to produce child sexual abuse material.
The internet did not invent child abuse, but without appropriate safeguards, it has made it easier.
The tools we all value most about the internet are the same tools that enable child sexual abuse online.
Ease of Communication
Minimizes social stigma by creating communities between curious viewers and hardcore abusers alike.
Ease of Duplication
Facilitates widespread distribution of CSAM making it difficult for platforms and authorities to eliminate violative content entirely.
Ease of Access at Scale
Amplifies the ability to share various types of violative content to thousands or millions of people at a given time.
Lack of Geographical Limits
Eliminates boundaries between users and facilitates greater distribution of content to audiences in nearly every part of the world.
Allows people to explore interests that may otherwise be unavailable to them in their real lives.
Ease of "Platform Jumping"
Creates the opportunity for abusers to have multiple accounts on multiple platforms - if their account is flagged and taken down on one platform, they can simply move to another.
There are two primary issues:
The sharing and distribution of child sexual abuse imagery.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reviews more than 25 million images annually. That’s more than 68,000 images per day.
It’s critical that we identify, report and remove all harmful content on all online platforms, to tackle the mass distribution challenge. This is where online platforms have the greatest role to play, and it is important we prioritize this work for the victims of these crimes.
Eliminating abusive imagery of children is important. Every time an abusive image of a child is re-published, that represents another instance of victimization.
Predators are using the internet to gain access to children for purposes of abuse—either on or offline:
They’re often called “bad actors”, but what they really are are predators. And what they do is criminal.
At any given time, an estimated 750,000 individuals are looking to connect with children for sexual purposes online (End Violence).
The internet gives each predator access to thousands of children. One person can send a message to hundreds of children in a day, and it only takes one response to put a child in danger.
Social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms, and so on, provide numerous opportunities for adults to connect with children—to groom them to take sexually explicit images, engage with them in a sexual conversation, and/or ultimately meet face-to-face with them to abuse them sexually.
The emergence of online communities has also promoted communication between predators, both enabling their interest in children and desensitizing them to the physical and psychological damages inflicted on the children being exploited. These online communities often provide a space to freely share interests, desires, and experiences abusing children, free of judgment and with little fear of being caught (Thorn).
We’re trying to build a safe internet for kids.
One that helps them learn, play and creatively express themselves, but that also has safeguards to protect them against people who want to harm them.