The pre-Christmas season is the riskiest time of the year for children

  • Hotlines
  • 17/12/2018
  • Czech Safer Internet Centre

Martin Kožíšek, from Association CZ.NIC, administrators of the Czech hotline, presents the conclusions of a survey on young people and sexual offers on the internet.

"Until recently, the summer holidays were considered the riskiest time of the year for children on the internet. They spend their time on social networks, experiment with various dating sites, and use online leisure services. Children thus frequently encounter cyberbullying, harassment through social media, sexting, blackmail and misuse of personal data.

"Lately, the riskiest time on the internet is the pre-Christmas season. Children, as well as adults, turn to the internet to shop for presents and to figure out where to get the money they need. According to recent surveys, almost one fifth (17 per cent) of Czech adults borrow money for Christmas. Where to get the money for Christmas is also an issue among young people. Most often, they rely on pocket money from their relatives and on occasional student jobs.

"For the project survey, up to 21 per cent of children stated they were willing to provide their intimate materials or sexual services in exchange for a reward. Based on a sample of 1,800 children, the survey tried to find out the price at which they were willing to accept these offers.

"Contrary to all the assumptions and clichés, boys are more frequently the victims on the internet. They receive more offers from false profiles than girls do. Boys have no problem shooting intimate materials – they take photos or videos ordinarily and often for free. If they get an offer of a reward, most often it is game keys, premium SMS for games, and credit recharge. The amount promised for sending intimate material represents a few euros. If a boy is lured into an intimate date, the average cost of sex is approximately 100 euros.

"Girls receive more offers for taking photos, videos and dates with sexual connotations, but they are more careful in sending sensitive content than boys. If it concerns the possibility to earn some money, they prefer personal meetings. The most at risk are girls aged 14-21, and the average price for sexual intercourse is approximately 28 euros. Up to 76 per cent of girls that have experience with this activity said it was a one-time money-making possibility.

"Czech social and dating sites deal with offers with sexual connotations in several ways. Some indirectly accommodate these activities, as the profile asks also questions like size of genitalia, description of underwear or when was the last time you had sex. These questions may be answered by children, and often they are. Various surveys also confirmed that people who fill in more entries with photos (including sensitive ones) have three times the likelihood of being approached.

"While preparing a TV series on child prostitution for an online TV channel, we wanted to see how attractive it was for predators to address a new child profile on a dating site. We created false identities for a boy and a girl, saying they were 15 years old and at home because of an illness. In one night, we received 1,200 messages on the boy's profile. Almost 750 of the messages included a financial offer. The girl's profile was addressed ten times less. During several hours, we lured ten candidates to a meeting place, among them a person previously sentenced for sexual intercourse with minors and corruption of morals.

"There are many possibilities to protect oneself from the phenomenon of sexual offers on the internet. The good news is that these topics receive great attention and there is a range of projects addressing them. Parents are the weakest link in this process, but may be of great help if they pay enough attention to their children. Their role is to create an environment in which the child will have no need to compete with others about whose clothes or electronics are better. Should the children come across similar offers, they need to know how to behave in these situations."

Find out more information about the work of the Czech 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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