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Over 300 million children a year face sexual abuse online

May 28, 2024
The picture shows a silhouette of a child. — AFP/File
The picture shows a silhouette of a child. — AFP/File

LONDON: More than 300 million children a year are victims of online sexual exploitation and abuse, according to the first global estimate of the scale of the problem published on Monday.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that one in eight of the world’s children has been a victim of non-consensual taking of sexual images and video, and the sharing of and exposure to such content, in the past 12 months.

This amounts to about 302 million young people, said the university’s Childlight Global Child Safety Institute, which carried out the study. There have been a similar number of cases of solicitation, such as unwanted sexting and requests for sexual acts by adults and other youth, according to the report.

Offences range from so-called sextortion, where predators demand money from victims to keep images private, to the abuse of artificial intelligence technology to create deepfake videos and pictures.

The problem is worldwide but the research suggests the United States is a particularly high-risk area, with one in nine men there admitting to online offences against children at some point. “Child abuse material is so prevalent that files are on average reported to watchdog and policing organisations once every second,” said Childlight chief executive Paul Stanfield.