By Ngotiek Philip
The alarming use of the internet among young people in the country has sparked a call for action by many people as more children get exposed to sexual exploitation and other online forms of child abuse. Every year, over 400 million children around the world are exposed to child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). Child sexual exploitation and abuse is defined as any exploitative and abusive sexual activity involving a child.
In many cases, CSEA leads to a lifetime of physical and emotional trauma for survivors. Information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the Internet have become an integral part of modern life, and play an important role in the educational and social development of children. However, they also expose children to new and evolving forms of sexual exploitation. Children are spending more time online than ever before. And they’re getting there sooner.
Around the world, a child goes online for the first time every half second. Growing up online offers limitless opportunities. Through computers, smartphones, gaming consoles, and televisions, children learn, imagine and develop their social networks. When used in the right way – and accessible to all – the internet has the potential to broaden horizons and ignite creativity the world over. But with these opportunities come serious risks. Cyberbullying and other forms of peer-to-peer violence can affect young people each time they log in to social media or instant messaging platforms. When browsing the internet, children may be exposed to hate speech and violent content – including messages that incite self-harm and even suicide.
Child sexual exploitation has soared in recent years as reflected by the ever-increasing production and distribution of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) due to the use of more advanced ICTs by perpetrators. According to police reports, the number of CSAM now in circulation is staggering. Practices such as ‘sexting’ also place children at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation it’s time we collaborate with government and other organizations globally in our efforts to combat online child sexual abuse. As part of these efforts, we need to establish strong partnerships with NGOs and industry coalitions to help grow and contribute to our joint understanding of the evolving nature of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Ngotiek Philip, youth advocate at Naya Kenya (firstname.lastname@example.org)