A few years ago, children were given cell phones for games and teenagers for safety and to communicate with their parents. But in these times, telephony is what causes the least interest among modern devices, where attention passes through cameras capable of taking photos and recording high-definition audio and video, as well as a set of social networks for sharing content without many limitations. control.
Everything that offers a sounds virtuous smartphone but there is a hidden danger. If the hormonal formula of minors is added to the lack of control over the use and time they spend with the cell phone, the result is more risky than one can imagine.
The number of children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17 who connect to the Internet through their smartphones has grown significantly in Peru: it has grown from 43% in 2018 to 75% in 2022.
However, increased access to this service has created situations at risk of “Sexual Exploitation of Girls, Boys and Adolescents” (ESNNA) online.
This is evidenced by the investigations of CHS Alternativo, ECPAT Internacional and the We Protect alliance, which were presented during the webinar “Internet and sexual exploitation during a pandemic: risks and vulnerabilities of girls, boys and adolescents”.
exposed to risks
The findings are alarming. The study “Perceptions of Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents Online (ESNNA)” conducted by CHS Alternativo reveals that due to the pandemic, seven out of 10 minors have increased their use of the internet to more than five times a week and an overwhelming majority of 93% of mothers and fathers surveyed believe their daughters and sons are more exposed to internet risks.
For 77%, their main concern is video game addiction, followed by addiction to Internet (71%), online sexual harassment (70%) and human trafficking (69%), among others.
Ricardo Valdes, executive director of CHS Alternativo, commented that previous studies of the organization were able to determine that “social networks and video games have become a space for possible recruitment and where exploiters have managed to bypass security filters on social media platforms due to the local conditions of each country and city’.
He also added that the responsibility of service provider companies He is not exempt from this problem, as the investigation reported that eight in 10 mothers and fathers reported that they were not offered parental filters, and of the few who did get the offer, 24% were men compared to 12% women.
“In other words, it’s the last ones that have access to less protective filters,” he said.
They don’t believe and they don’t report
Another disturbing fact from the investigation is the lack of trust among people where to report. 50% of mothers and fathers said they would report the SEC online to the police department, a figure that was down from previous years.
In this regard, Valdes highlighted the widespread ignorance of the public about the existence of a police unit that specializes in Cybercrime. “Only 3% would report to this unit and another 3% to the prosecution. And only 1% will go across state lines. It is something that needs to be worked on,” he said.
In addition, the webinar presented the global report “Abuse and sexual exploitation of children and adolescents online: perspectives of survivors”, prepared in different countries by ECPAT International and the We Protect alliance, in which CHS Alternativo participates.
The survey, which collects the voices and experiences of SEC survivors in the digital space, aims to find out how sexual exploitation of children and adolescents occurs and how the state deals with these cases.
Don’t blame the kids
ECPAT International is a network of 122 civil society organizations that is present in 104 countries and of which CHS Alternativo is a member. Its executive director, Guillaume Landry, indicated that in the wake of the investigation there was an urgent need to change the focus on how evidence was generated about the SEC’s problem at a global level.
“No girl or boy will agree to their exploitation. But there are times when we blame them for the decisions they make on social media. It is essential that don’t blame the kids when they make wrong decisions. The responsibility lies with the adults, from Condition to society,” he said.
Landry also added the need to promote legislation so that companies can filter, track and discover material related to online sexual exploitation. “We are not against privacy, it is important for children’s rights, but it is also protect your privacy in virtual spaces“, Held.
Stigma and shame
For his part, Luis Enrique Aguilar, director of Policies and Strategies at CHS Alternativo, emphasized the Peruvian case and said the study makes visible the weaknesses in access to justiceas nearly 80% of victim care workers who participated in the investigation expressed a level of dissatisfaction with the state’s medical and legal services.
The investigation reveals that in 60% of cases victims did not report due to stigma and shame they experienced, 41% of them feared how their complaint would be received in society once it was disclosed, and 40% were discouraged by their lack of confidence that they could get help.
The webinar “Internet and sexual exploitation during a pandemic: risks and vulnerabilities of children and adolescents” was presented by Andrea Carroll, president of CHS Alternativo, who pointed out that although technology is an ally of development, it also exposes children and adolescents to numerous risks to be prevented by improving the legislationon investments and on access to justice.
Bullying and psychological risks
Neither adults nor children can predict the behavior of others, much less know whether the recipient will forward – for example sexual content—or the file for whatever reason: anger, revenge, because the link was broken, or simply because he got it to spread it.
We also cannot control how vigilant and thorough others are with the security of their devices.
Whatever the case, the danger is that an image – of an adult or a minor – can be spread around the world at the speed of a virusand remain in the digital environment indefinitely.
The effect of these consequences is difficult—if not impossible—to control because of the unlimited persistence of things on the net and the ability for non-exchange third parties to access it.
The circumstances are quite different when the victim is an adolescent or a child. In the least discouraging scenario, the event will trigger a cascade of bullying from some of their classmates and extracurricular activities, without harassment on social networks. The psychological risks which this imposes are among the most serious.
September 23 is the International Day Against the Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women, Girls and Boys, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It is also celebrated on National Day Against Human Trafficking.