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Cyberbullying and sexual harassment
In all communication services cyberbullying and sexual harassment of children are an everyday problem. Smartphones make it very easy to take compromising photos and disseminate them online. There are no protective barriers since young users can be online anywhere, anytime and on their own. Operators of platforms specifically attractive to young people have to reduce the inherent risks and develop protection concepts. Parents and teachers need information about risks, young people need appropriate support for preventing sexual assaults.
Cyberbullying – omnipresent danger
Embarrassing photos or compromising videos are disseminated in all services specifically attractive to a young audience. There is no control over cyberbullying – the mobile communication takes place through private messaging. Children who are victimized can hardly cope with the attacks.
Social mockery, malice and bullying is not a new phenomenon. However, the rapid development of social media has enabled children and young people to be humiliated in a wider capacity: They cannot go home and get away from it all, they can be victimized day or night. Cyberbullying can have a large audience, too. The defamatory content can be circulated very quickly within the internet community and can be seen by lots of people very quickly. It is nearly impossible to remove the content. Once it goes viral, no one has any control of it.
Sexual harassment – gateway messengers
Sexual assaults mostly take place in private messages in chat rooms, messaging services and communities.
There has been an increasing tendency of assaults made in public e.g. as a comment on videos or in live stream chat room conversations. Even the first images and words can be insulting, sometimes there is small talk before the assault occurs.
Offenders mostly ask children and young people about their sexual experiences or describe their own sexual practices and fantasies; they then ask their victims to engage in sexual activities and touch themselves or others or even perform sex acts over webcam. Often they also send pornographic files and links.
Prevent and reduce risks
Platform operators cannot generally prevent sexual assaults, but they can reduce the risks for children and young people. This is why jugendschutz.net calls for better protection concepts. Providers must quickly react to reports, make their content safe and raise awareness of risks in an age-appropriate way.
Younger children need safe chat rooms where parents can determine whom their children are allowed to chat with. It is also important to have moderators to prevent any assaults.
Tips for parents and young persons
Victims of cyberbullying and sexual harassment often keep silent. Here, parents and teachers are challenged to provide support and help clear the scene.
jugendschutz.net publishes all research results of online communication risks on the website Chatten ohne Risiko. Advice on how to deal with cyberbullying and sexual harassment is also included.