Digital wellbeing of youth: Selfgenerated sexualised content

29 Nov 2022 12:35h - 14:05h

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Event report

Almost 20,000 reports on self-generated child sexual abuse content were seen by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in the first six months of 2022. Incidents involving children between ages 7 and 10 surged by two-thirds in the first six months of 2022 – an increase of 360% since 2020. The largest age group in self-generated content, with 56,000 in the first half of 2022, is children ages 11 to 13. The majority of victims are girls, but an increase of boys has been witnessed as well. IWF data shows that two in three victims of sextortion are girls under 16. 

The General Comment No. 25 on Children’s Rights in Relation to the Digital Environment, adopted in 2021 by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, distinguishes three different scenarios of self-generated sexualised content, and emphasises that self-generated sexual material by children that they possess and share with their consent and solely for their own private use, should not be criminalised, and are as follows: 

    1. Non-sexual material: Production of material that is not sexual
    2. Voluntary self-generated sexual material: Sexual material produced by adolescents or children of themselves, and knowingly shared with other adolescents and children in a developmentally appropriate exchange.
  • Coerced self-generated sexual material: A child or adolescent is groomed, deceived, or extorted by a peer or adult to produce and share sexual material of themselves. 

The third category is clearly abusive and harmful. However, the first two categories can result in abusive and harmful behaviour if the material is misused for sexual purposes or shared against the child`s will. 

While the General Comment No. 25 makes clear recommendations and provides definitions on self-generated sexualised content, the situation on national and regional levels varies profoundly. The Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Committee has published a monitoring report covering the legal situation of child sexual exploitation online. While the topic is high on the EU agenda, the report shows that only 11 of the assessed 43 countries have a specified legal framework on child sexual abuse online. South Africa has established a Law Reform Commission (SALRC) to review the current legislation, and in Asia there is the ASEAN regional plan of action in addressing child sexual exploitation online. But the problems of unclear legislation, definition, and action for law enforcement remain present globally.

The consulted children said that clear and easy terminology, user-friendliness, and pleasure-friendly sex education is important for them to understand their rights and the problems that come with self-generated sexualised content online. 

In order to address the problem of child sexual material online, governments and service providers should consider new, more user-friendly approaches that have children and adolescents as clear target audiences. 

Governments should:

  • Invest in comprehensive national responses to prevent and respond to online child sexual exploitation and abuse 
  • Accelerate global collaboration among governments and companies to strengthen prevention and response efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse 
  • Strengthen the use of collected data and evidence to enhance effective, sustainable national efforts to protect children 
  • Share best practices and lessons learned to support national responses to protect children from online sexual exploitation and abuse 
  • Promote the global implementation of the Model National Response Framework and its continuous refinement based on lessons learned 

Service providers should:

  • Create a user-friendly platform to report and address child sexual exploitation material online
  • Make a clear report button on social platforms available
  • Provide high-quality and pleasure friendly information on sexual education on platforms and websites 
  • Inform children and adolescents of their rights
  • Conduct a child rights impact assessment on new policies and products before they are launched


The session in keywords

IGF 2022 WS 183 Digital well being