Report: ”I wouldn’t count this as normal, traditional sex, but it is a form of sex”

ECPAT’s report “I wouldn’t count this as normal, traditional sex, but it is a form of sex” shows that technical development has changed the way children explore their sexuality and that children and adolescents are having sex in new ways today. Awareness is lacking among adults about how technical development has affected the way young people have sex. Adults need to be able to inform children about the rules that apply both online and offline. 

The new report explores how children and adolescents view sexuality, consent and relationships online, and is based on ECPAT’s survey “Nude Online” (Nude på nätet, 2021) in which almost 13,000 children participated. To gain a deeper understanding we also invited 16 children between the ages of 14 and 17 to analyse the results of the survey in focus groups.   

The results show a lack of knowledge among children and adolescents about which rules apply both online and offline, and also that they are not aware when they are victims of a crime – or when they are committing a crime against others. Few children are aware, for example, that a sexual act that takes place online without consent and/or with someone under the age of 15 is a sexual offence that is as serious online as offline. It is therefore important for the adult world to engage in a dialogue with children and to apply an expanded definition of sex to include young people’s sexual acts, whether they are online or offline.  

“Having sex online can include sharing nude pictures, sending sexual messages or masturbating together in front of a webcam. In order for exploration online to be done safely, children need to be aware of the rules that apply online and offline, and therefore also understand when they have been abused or are abusing others. It is the responsibility of the adult world to have a dialogue with children during the time they are exploring their sexuality, and to support children and prevent them from crossing a boundary – whether it is their own boundary or someone else’s,” says Anna Karin Hildingson Boqvist, Secretary General of ECPAT.   

From ECPAT’s extensive survey “Nude Online” (Nude på nätet) we have been able to conclude that children are increasingly engaged in sexual exploration online. From the child’s perspective this is largely not viewed as problematic, but it is clear that adults have little understanding of it and seldom talk to children about it. In cases where sexual acts by children online are discussed by adults, it is basically from the perspective that it is a negative thing and something the children are tricked into and are not looking for.   



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