Dickpics, porn stickers, dirty talk – Sexual harassment online

  • Awareness
  • 29/06/2020
  • German Safer Internet Centre

Sexual messages, pictures and videos reach young people online every day. Without the consent of the recipient, this must be classified as sexual harassment. As in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic communication has shifted to the digital space even more, the German Awareness Centre klicksafe offers advice for those affected and recommends that children and young people should be made aware of sexual border violations in the digital world in an age-appropriate manner. 

On the one hand, sexual harassment on the internet is direct harassment, in which, for example, women and young girls are specifically confronted with sexual content through text messages, pictures or videos. On the other hand, it also happens that a confrontation with sexual content tends to be indirect, for example when it is shared in class chat groups in the form of porn stickers.

The European Commission's #DigitalRespect4her campaign also aims to raise awareness of sexual harassment in the online sphere, specifically against women; learn more about the campaign on the EC website.

Some of the perpetrators are still minors themselves. For fun or as a test of courage, they share pornographic content with other children or young people, usually without realising that they are committing criminal offences. These cases show how important it is to sensitise children and young people in an age-appropriate way to sexual border violations in the digital space. It is not advisable to wait until the first problems occur, but to establish binding chat rules from the outset of use of messengers and social media services, and to inform about limits, rights and obligations.

What can I do if I am sexually harassed online?

Those affected by harassment and border-crossing behaviour should not put up with it, including on the internet. klicksafe has produced some top tips on how to defend yourself:

  • If it concerns criminal content and a complaint is sought, first secure evidence with screenshots (preferably with visible date and time).
  • Report inappropriate content to the provider.
  • Delete content and block offenders.
  • Do not redistribute received material.
  • Only in the case of known offenders, inform the distributor that it is not okay (in case of violation of the border) or that it is punishable by law to send such content without being asked. In the case of harassment by unknown persons, no contact should be made.

Prevention work

The German Awareness Centre klicksafe offers information and different tools to work on the topic. Educators can use the klicksafe teaching material "Let's talk about porn" (German). Further materials and tips can be found in the following thematic areas on klicksafe's website:

In klicksafe's video series "Truth be told", 16-year-old Ilija tells how he was unintentionally confronted with pornography as a young student. How did it make him feel and how does he deal with it? The video can be found in the BIK resource gallery:

Further links

  • Project deSHAME by Childnet International (part of the UK Safer Internet Centre), a project aiming to increase reporting of online sexual harassment among minors and improve multi-sector cooperation in preventing and responding to this behaviour (English).
  • A short animated video about sextortion and a decision tree for young people by Child Focus (part of the Belgian Safer Internet Centre) (Dutch and French).
  • SHARED, a project about online sexual harassment among young people by Medierådet for Børn og Unge (part of the Danish Safer Internet Centre) (Danish).
  • Facing sexual harassment online? Find help within the Insafe Helplines network

Find out more information about the work of the German Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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  • German Safer Internet Centre

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