A digital world

Almost all children and young people have a smartphone or Ipad. Digital communication is often as important – if not more, at times – than physical meetings.

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It is easy to get to know new people on the internet. A lot of children and young people find it fun and exciting; you can talk to people from all over the world, learn English, and exchange knowledge and ideas on shared interests. Many also use the arena to explore their sexuality, and find it a comfortable and safe environment.

Exploring ones sexuality on digital platforms may be positive and safe. Digital platforms may be arenas  for finding friends, partners and relationships, without the preassure of having to get physical. 

Sharing sexualized personal content puts the child at risk:

Since both photos and videos are easy to share, often without consent, this type of exposure puts children and young people at great risk.
Sexualized photos are used to threaten, manipulate, frighten, financially blackmail, or pressure children into sending more explicit photos. Such photos are often used as blackmail or a threatening device in the manipulation of children; trying to meet children physically with the intent of sexually assaulting them. A child can be told that in the event they do not show up, the photo/video will be sent to their parents, friends, and shared online by the offender.
For children and young people this is a huge burden to bear, and most do not tell their parents about it out of a sense of guilt and shame.
Sexualized photos and videos can also be used to harass or bully someone after a break-up, or if a conflict occurs – sometimes this is referred to as “revenge porn”.

Sexual offences in digital media

In the beginning, children and young people can be contacted via games, chat or social forums, before being manipulated or pressured into sex talk and sexual acts (grooming). Following, or combined with, online sexual assaults, are sometimes physical (hands on) assaults.

Mean and sexually harassing messages posted online or sent to a phone, i.e. “I want your hand on my cock”, “I want to see you naked”, “if you don’t have sex with me, I’ll spread rumours about you”
Threatening or forcing the sharing of photos and videos, or other types of threats i.e. “I’ll ass-fuck all the girls in class 9B. Then I’m gonna rape the teacher.”
Being exposed to sexualized language, or receive photos and videos containing sexualized or violent content
Trading and selling sexual favours
Downloading, possession of and sharing photos/videos containing assault against children, or sexualizing children
Being pressured to perform sexual acts in front of a phone or web-camera, for instance pose, strip, touch and intercourse-like acts

Exposure and self-exposure

Children and young people are motivated by various things when they send nude photos of themselves. In some instances it is a declaration of trust between couples, or “harmless fun” between friends.  

Quite a few say sending and receiving nude photos from someone you know is part of today’s youth culture. They choose to not read too deeply into it, and delete the photos without involving adults. However, in other instances they could be tricked or pressured by someone they trust, someone posing as another person, or someone planning to manipulate them using the photos.

The feeling of anonymity can make it easier to undress and take risks you don’t normally take.

A survey by the Norwegian Media Authority (2020) shows 46 percent of 13-18-year-olds have been asked to send or share a nude photo of themselves. The percentage increases by age and is highest among girls. 42 percent were asked by complete strangers online.

1 out of 10 have, over the course of 2019, sent or shared nude photos of themselves. Of these, 1 out of 10 (13 percent) were paid for it.
4 out of 10 have received nude photos from others. The percentage increases by age and is highest among girls. Of those who received nude photos, 4 out of 10 (40 percent) received them from strangers online.
1 out of 10 have shared a nude photo of themselves in 2019.
3 out of 10 have received sexual comments online during 2019. The percentage receiving sexual comments online increases noticeably by age.

What can you do when discovering sexual abuse or harmful sexual behaviour online?

Save the evidence. Print out copies of messages and websites. Make use of the function allowing you to save messages.
If a fake or offensive profile targeted at a child is created on a social website, report this directly to the website in question. The link to report digital harassment is often found under the ‘help’ function on the website. Make sure you copy the web address in case you have to do this.
Keep an eye on children’s use of the internet
Report the digital bullying to the police if it includes threats, harassment or sexual extortion
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If you want to delete photos or videos that have been shared online, contact Slettmeg.no (Norwegian), a counselling service for people who experience being mistreated on the internet. See also this website by the police: Delbart.no. Download and use photos below if neccesarry.