Please note that the information on this page is not intended to prevent you from using the internet or being afraid of anyone you meet online. It is intended to give you the tools you need in order to recognize the risks of online use and prevent them from happening, thus allowing you to have a safe and enriching experience online.
Any child can be subject to child sexual abuse online, however by taking the right precautions and being smart online, you can avoid the dangers of using the internet and stay safe on the web.
What is Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation?
Child sexual abuse and exploitation happens to both boys and girls. The offenders can be strangers or someone who is close to you and that you know.
Child sexual abuse and exploitation happens when a person (usually an adult, however can happen by other children and young adults as well), involves a child in sexual activity, either by force or by using manipulation methods. Sometimes the perpetrator will give something in return for the child’s sexual activity. This can be money, gifts, payment for school fees, etc. When there is some type of exchange between the perpetrator and the child it will be defined as child sexual exploitation. However, if the sexual activity satisfies only the needs of the perpetrator, it will be defined as child sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse and exploitation can involve physical contact between the perpetrator and the child, and sometimes sexual abuse and exploitation will happen without any physical contact involved. Contact sexual abuse includes rape, sexually touching a child or making the child touch the perpetrator, or coercing the child int sexual activity with the perpetrator or with others. Non-contact sexual abuse and exploitation includes filming or taking pictures of a child in sexual positions, exposing a child to sexual material, and encouraging a child to act in a sexual manner.
Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
Sexual abuse and exploitation cases have been on the rise through the internet or other Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Child sex offenders are taking advantage of the easy access to children through online communication applications and websites in order to sexually abuse and exploit a child. The communication with a child may either lead to the perpetrator meeting the child in person for sexual purposes, or may end with no physical contact between the perpetrator and the child, with the sexual exploitation happening in an online setting. The perpetrator may convince a child to send photos or make videos which either contain nudity or sexual content, or may try to send such content to the child.
When no physical contact is involved, it may be confusing for a child who may have experienced some form of child sexual abuse online, but they won’t realize that what has happened to them is wrong. They may even falsely believe that if they participated in the process, they are to blame which can lead to severe emotional consequences. But it is important to remember that a child is never to blame for the abuse that happened to them.
Learning more about the topic will help you both understand how to prevent yourself from harm, and know what to do in cases where you or someone you know has been hurt by someone online.
Talking to strangers online
The term online stranger refers to anyone you are in contact with online but you have never met in person. Even if you have been chatting with a person for days or even weeks, if they are unknown personally to you, they will still be considered a stranger.
Although talking to strangers online has many benefits such as allowing you to meet new people and create new friendships, it is important to be aware of the risks and be cautious with any interaction you have with an online stranger.
Not everyone is who they say they are online. When you meet a person in real life you will immediately recognize if they are male or female, old or young, foreign or local, etc. Online however, it is much easier to pretend you are something you are not. There are online child sex offenders who take advantage of this and disguise as different people so they can gain your trust, while their real intention is gaining access to you for sexual purposes. They may tell you things you want to hear, offer gifts or make promises that will make you want to be in contact with them.
The process of befriending a child online for sexual purposes is called online grooming. Child sex offenders use this method to gain a child’s trust and make them believe they can trust them. By manipulating a child’s feelings, it becomes easier to abuse a child and also maintain control over them.
How do online child sex offenders gain access to you?
Communication online happens in various forms – through social media, chat rooms, messaging apps, online games and more. The same platforms you use to stay in contact with your friends, are the same platforms that online child sex offenders use when they want to reach out to a child.
With any online account you have, make sure you are setting the privacy settings so that only friends and people you know can contact you and see your information. You should also make sure that any information you write about yourself does not expose any personal details. To learn more about setting your privacy settings press here.
If you find yourself communicating with a stranger online, remember the following rules of what you should and should-not do to help you stay safe:
You should NOT:
Give away any personal information about yourself. This can make you more vulnerable to online child sex offenders and allow them to use this information to groom you and gain access to you.
Send pictures of yourself to a stranger online, especially if they are intimate. Pictures are personal and should only be shared with people you know and trust, while intimate photos should not be uploaded or shared at all. Once an image is uploaded online it can reach the hands of anyone, be exposed publicly or used in ways you never planned on.
Accept gifts from a stranger you only met online. You don’t know the real intentions of a stranger giving you gifts online. They may do it as part of a grooming process to gain your trust or they may make you feel obligated to give them something in return in a later stage and use this for their advantage.
Enter unknown links or open suspicious files which were sent to you by strangers online. You may be exposed to disturbing material or viruses when clicking on unknown sources online. Always be careful when entering unknown areas of the web or opening unknown files.
Meet in person a stranger you just met online on your own. It can be dangerous meeting people you met only online since they might not be who they say they are. If you do decide to meet a person you just met online, make sure you tell a trusted adult about it, meet in a public place, and best to have someone along with you.
Be critical of the people you meet online. Knowing that not everyone who is friendly online has good intentions or is someone you can trust; can help you be cautious with any online interaction with a stranger.
Be aware of suspicious behavior online. Look out for any signs of behavior that seem inappropriate. For instance, a stranger online is asking you a lot of personal questions, has information on their profile that does not match what they are saying, is offering to give you things you want supposedly with no return, wants to talk privately, talks about sexual topics and tries to convince you to as well, etc.
Report anyone who is harassing you or sending you inappropriate material online. If you or anyone you know has been sexually exploited online, you should report them immediately. This will help stop the abuse and prevent others from getting harmed.
One of the main forms of sexual exploitation of children online, involves the production as well as distribution of sexual material involving children.
What is Child Sexual Abuse Material?
Child sexual abuse material (CSAM), includes photographs, videos, and sound recordings of children in sexual situations.
The distribution, selling, displaying, projecting or screening of child sexual abuse material publicly, is a crime in Cambodia and can be punished by law, as is the production of such material for the sake of public distribution.
Even if a child is above the legal age of consent (15 in Cambodia), and agrees to performing sexual activity with an adult, if the production of CSAM is involved during the act and later being distributed, the child is being sexually exploited and it is considered a crime.
CSAM can be obtained by a perpetrator threatening, coercing, tricking, deceiving, or convincing a child to make the sexual material, or even voluntarily from the child.
What is online streaming?
Online streaming is the broadcasting of a video live online. There are many different apps that allow you to create videos which are distributed live, either to a public audience or to a selected set of friends.
Both making a live video as well as watching live videos, contain different risks which we will help you understand and stay safe from:
Making live videos:
Posting live videos of yourself through various online streaming apps may be fun and seem like a good way to connect with friends and show them what you are up to. However, it is important to know that online streaming can also put you in danger.
Although through some apps, live videos will be erased automatically after a certain period of time, the videos you upload can always be recorded live and used later for any purpose. Keep that in mind anytime you think of streaming something you wouldn’t want everyone to see.
Online streaming has also become a means for child sex offenders online to sexually exploit children. Many children receive offers by online perpetrators to use streaming apps to make sexual videos of themselves while offering them money in return. They may convince a child and deceive them into thinking it is for their eyes only, but actually record and distribute the material to others.
Watching live videos:
Watching live videos which were uploaded by others may also contain risks. Because it is a live video there is no way to screen the content before watching to make sure it is age appropriate and will not progress to contain disturbing images.
Online sex offenders will also broadcast sexually explicit videos through live streaming, targeting children to make them more susceptible to abuse. It is therefore crucial you are aware who the person is you are watching a live video of, and make sure it is done under caution.
What is sexting?
Sexting (sex+texting) – is engaging in sending someone sexually explicit content online. This may include sexual texts, or sexual images and videos of themselves to another person.
Sexting can be done voluntarily. You may want to send your boyfriend/girlfriend/someone you like a sexual photo of yourself and at the time it may seem like a good idea. But once you upload a photo online you will lose control of it and not know where it will end up. Even if you send it to someone you trust, the photo you sent may be distributed to others, or uploaded publicly against your will. It is important to remember that everything you upload online is very difficult to erase and has the potential to stay online forever. For this reason, you should always make sure that anything you upload, you will be comfortable with everyone seeing and cannot harm you.
What is sextortion?
Sextortion (sex+extortion) is when someone takes advantage of the sexual images they have of another person and threaten to reveal them if they don’t receive what they want. They may demand for more sexual material, money and more.
What should you do if someone is trying to sext you?
If it is someone you know and care about, explain that it makes you feel uncomfortable and that you do not want to do it. A person who really cares about you would never want to put you in a situation that makes you feel bad.
If the person persists and is pressuring you, you can:
- Tell someone you trust and ask for help
- Report the person
- Block the person and make sure that person cannot bother you anymore
What should you do if you already sent a photo?
- You can ask the person you sent it to, to delete it and respect your privacy
- It might be possible to report through the app or website and ask to remove the photo. You can do this by reporting the photo on the site.
- Report here on IHC.
What is Cyberbullying? Cyberbullying is when someone threats, harasses, shames, writes or posts hurtful things about another person online.
- Harassing a person to send pictures or videos of themselves or to do things they don’t want to online.
- Sending intimate or embarrassing images of a person without their consent
- Exposing a person to pornographic material against their will
- Sending threats about activities done online
- Writing offensive or hurtful words against or about a person online
What can you do if someone is bullying you online?
By reacting to something posted online you are actually increasing the visibility of the post and making it more public. Even if your intentions are to show disapproval of the content, you are actually allowing more people to be exposed to the offensive content. Reporting, or in cases where the content is not abusive – ignoring, are better options.
- Ignoring – Some cases of cyberbullying involve a few hurtful words and end there. Your first reaction may be to send something hurtful back, but this can just make things worse and actually encourage the cyberbully to continue. Sometimes the person who is harassing you is only checking your reactions and is interested in making you feel upset. If you ignore and show that it does not affect you, they may likely stop.
- Reporting – Any case that of cyberbullying that does not stop, or if the cyberbully actions involve sending offensive or illegal content such as CSAM, it must be reported. Reporting can help stop the person who is harassing you, and can also help prevent other people from getting hurt. Reporting can be done either by telling a trusted adult or by reporting here. Most apps and websites have options for reporting any content of abusive nature as well.
Take notice of your own actions – Make sure YOU are not cyberbullying anyone
- Maybe you saw a naked picture of someone you know and forwarded it just because you thought it looked good, or thought that your friends would like it. But think about the person in the photo and how it would affect them. Don’t do something that might hurt someone else and that you wouldn’t want done to yourself!
- Sometimes it is easy to forget how much a person can get hurt online because you cannot see their reactions in person. But saying offensive things online is just as bad as saying them to their face.
- Shaming a person online can reach a large amount of people and can create long term social implications for that person. It can also lead to serious psychological and emotional problems that may lead to the person’s self-harm. Never engage in activities that may put someone in such distress.
- Anything you post online can easily be lost of your control and can be almost impossible to remove. If you take part of activities online that lead to someone else’s harm, you are not only ruining someone else’s life. You are also leaving a negative impression of yourself that will always be seen and can impact your own future as well.
“If you realize you took part in cyberbullying someone – delete the content, apologize to the person and set a good example by telling others not to engage in these activities themselves. It is never too late to do the right thing!”
Studies show that more than 50% of children under the age 18 in Cambodia have been exposed to some type of pornographic material online. Pornographic material however of any kind, should be avoided by children entirely. Besides containing images that are highly inappropriate for children to watch, it also exposes children to many risks; Children who have been exposed to pornographic material are more easily lured by sexual offenders online and can become a victim of sexual abuse and exploitation or take part in abusive behavior towards others thinking it is normal.
You may be exposed to pornography by different means:
- Unintentionally – you accidently entered a link that takes you to a pornographic website or mistakenly downloaded pornographic material which is labeled as something else. Online child sex offenders will upload and mislabel the material intentionally for children to find, making it easier for them to sexually exploit them.
What you can do: You should always be very cautious about what you click on when you are on the web. Only download files from reliable and verified sources. If you are entering a link that was shared by a friend, check who was the original person that posted the link before pressing on it and make sure it is a trusted source. Also be careful while using video sharing apps such as YouTube, as they may also unintentionally lead you to a video with sexual content.
- Someone sends you pornographic material online against your will. Someone may send you via messaging apps, e-mail, social media or chat-rooms, files or links to videos or images which contain pornographic material.
What you can do: If it is a friend who sent you the material, you can ask them to stop and tell them it is not something that is appropriate to watch or share. If the person is an online stranger you should be extra cautious of their intentions and remember you can block them. If the pornographic content contains children, remember it is illegal to distribute and you should report it immediately.
- You actively seek out pornography out of curiosity or will to learn more about sexual relations. Consensual sexual relations between two adults is normal and it is natural to feel curious and want to learn more about it. Learning through pornographic material online however will not lead to the right answers and can also be dangerous for children. It can make you believe that what you see is normal behavior, and put you at risk of being sexually exploited. It is important to understand that pornography depicts unrealistic sexual relations which often involve violent and abusive behavior. Such behavior should not be adopted or encouraged, and pornography should never become a source to learn more about sexual relations.
What you can do: If you want to learn more about sex and healthy relationships try to think if there is someone you can trust to talk and learn more about the topic. Maybe a parent, an older sibling, a teacher or an older friend. Many children feel too shy or embarrassed to ask questions related to sex, or feel they may be judged for being interested in it. However, learning how to have a healthy relationship and learn more about sexual issues is not something to be embarrassed about.
If you still feel you cannot talk to anyone, check if your school or local library has books with more information that you can learn from. There are also many safe online sources which provide information on sex education and healthy relationships. Make sure you choose the right sources which can be trusted to give you age-appropriate and accurate information on sex education.
You can start by checking the following links:
http://childhelpline.org.kh/km/ – provides counseling, information about healthy relationships, and answers frequently asked questions about sexual health
http://rhac.org.kh/km/ – provides information on reproductive health, biological changes, sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and more
http://www.youthchhlat.org/ – provides a platform for asking questions regarding sexual issues, reproductive health and gender-based violence.
http://mariestopes.org.kh/ – provides information on reproductive health, contraceptives, safe sex, STIs, safe abortion, and more
 Child Welfare Group, 2003. A Preliminary Study into the Accessibility by Minors of Pornography in Cambodia
Now that you have learned about the different risks of online use, here you can learn how to keep your information safe from perpetrators online.
What are the dangers of uploading personal information online?
Just as you would never leave your house wide open to allow any stranger to enter at all times, you wouldn’t want online strangers to have free access to you as well. It may be easy to forget that the internet is not a private place, but keep in mind that every action you do online has the potential of being seen by other people. Any information you upload can make you vulnerable to other people exploiting this information for their personal gain.
Key tips to remember:
- Personal information should stay personal, especially online. Personal information can be any information that will allow a person online to learn private things about you and gain access to you. This includes your full name, your home address, who your family members are, where you go to school, what places you like to go to, what you enjoy doing, etc. If you upload personal information, make sure your privacy settings are set to allow only close friends to see it.
- You should never upload anything online that you would not want the whole public to see. Even if you set your privacy settings to friends only, or send a video to one person in a private chat room, there is still a chance it can be used against you and distributed to others. If there is something you don’t feel comfortable with everyone seeing it, don’t upload it!
- Keep your passwords strong and safe from others. Your password should never be shared with anyone, even friends. Your password allows you to keep the information you upload online, safe and in your control.
- Make sure your geolocation is not exposed to public. Most internet devices can be tracked to identify their accurate location, which is called a geolocation. Some by default will be exposed with any post you upload, showing others where you are posting from. You can change your settings online to prevent this from being exposed to the public.
- Keep notice of the different internet devices you use. Every internet device has different settings which you should be aware of. Your actions may be tracked and traced when using the internet through public devices such as computers in cybercafes, at school, or using the smartphone’s and computers of others. Be aware of the actions you do online while using internet devices which are not your own.
How can you keep your information safe?
After making sure you are not uploading anything that may put you at risk, you also want to keep the information that you do decide to upload, safe and secure and let it be exposed only to the people who are close to you. Depending on the different apps you use, there are different ways to set your privacy settings to keep your information safe.
With most social media and applications, you will find the privacy settings through a “help” or “settings” button. There will be different things you need to take care of:
- Who can see your profile – your name, profile picture and general information about you.
- Who can see your actions online – what you upload and what you comment on or like.
- Who can see your friends or followers – all the people you are connected to online.
- Who can see your location – where you are physically located while using the internet.
- Who can tag you – who can connect you to posts, videos or pictures they upload.
- Who can send you friend requests or messages – who is able to reach out to you.
It is generally recommended that all of the above will be restricted to friends only, and in some cases even set only to your own eyes. This will allow you to stay safe and prevent online perpetrators from gaining access to you and your information. There are however cases where you would want to post things that everyone can see, such as if you are requesting general knowledge from the public or you think there is something important that the general public should be aware of and you want to share it. In these cases, you can change the setting for a specific post and allow for the public to see this post only. Don’t forget that public posts should never contain private information.