UNICEF launches a digital campaign to prevent online sexual exploitation of children and provide digital tips
UNICEF Cambodia and Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) seek to decrease the number of internet-using children who experience online sexual exploitation and abuse through an innovative and interactive campaign that addresses predatorial “grooming” practices online.
PNHOM PENH, CAMBODIA – 12 July 2023 – UNICEF Cambodia, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY), is running an innovative digital campaign called “Let’s Chat” from June 1st – August 30th this year in a concentrated effort to reduce the risk Cambodian adolescents face from online sexual predators.
According to a 2022 report, Disrupting Harm in Cambodia, by the Cambodia National Council for Children, and partners including UNICEF Cambodia, 11 percent of internet-using children in Cambodia aged 12-17 had experienced clear examples of online sexual exploitation and abuse. This includes blackmailing children into engaging in sexual activities and non-consensual sharing of sexual images. Among other concerning statistics, the report also revealed that 16 percent of children were subjected to sexual comments about them that made them feel uncomfortable, of whom 31 percent said it occurred on social media.
To help keep children safe online, the report recommended improving awareness of online child sexual exploitation and abuse across the country – and that is one of the goals of this online social media campaign.
“In a context where reporting online sexual abuse or exploitation may feel taboo or too shameful, it is crucial that we create accessible, informative, and compassionate approaches to the topic if we hope to create effective change and lower the incidents of risk for our adolescents and young people. This social media campaign meets youth where they already are – online – and uses storytelling techniques and technology to empower and protect them from harm,” notes UNICEF Cambodia Representative, Dr. Will Parks.
Perpetrators of one form of online sexual exploitation and abuse, called “grooming,” often lurk on social media and other messaging, chat, or video-centric apps. They start by slowly building a relationship with a young person to find out about their needs and vulnerabilities, sometimes even posing as young people themselves. Once they’ve developed trust, the abuse forms slowly through often secretive manipulation and demands and can escalate into physical harm.
“Let’s Chat” aims to help adolescents become aware of these predatorial practices, identify and understand what to do if they or their friends are targeted by a groomer, and make safe choices that reduce the risk for themselves and, hopefully, other adolescents and children, too.
The social media-based campaign revolves around a group of four good friends navigating life, crushes, and online interactions. Their story unfolds across a series of short, episodic videos in a “chat” style with each video focusing on a hypothetical scenario. Corresponding with the videos are dynamic posts that feature further interactive information, resources, and action steps including contact information the free child protection helpline (+855 92 311 511).
Young people and the public at large can interact with the campaign on UNICEF Cambodia’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. UNICEF expects to reach over two million young people online during the next three-months.
“By continuing to dedicate child and youth-friendly digital content and resources, and collaborating with partners to conduct concentrated behavior-change social awareness and advocacy campaigns like “Let’s Chat” Cambodia can build a safer place for children to be children and adolescents to make informed choices that reduce their risk of exploitation and abuse,” said Dr. Will Parks.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.