Cybercrime: protecting children from online abuse and exploitation

Photo: UNODC9 July 2015 - Fast-paced technological innovation and widespread accessibility of information and communication technology (ICT) have transformed societies around the world. Children in particular have unprecedented access to computers and mobile technologies, and have in recent decades tended to adopt these from an early age, resulting in ICTs becoming thoroughly embedded in their lives. Although the exploitation of children is not a new phenomenon, the digital age has exacerbated the problem and created more vulnerability to children.

With the aim of gaining a better understanding of the problem and the challenges posed by it, UNODC recently published a Study on the Effects of New Technologies on the Abuse and Exploitation of Children. The document is based on open source research as well as the work of a UNODC Informal Expert Group Meeting on the subject, convened in Vienna in 2013. This meeting brought together experts from international organizations, law enforcement, specialists on the subject and members of academia.

A number of international legal instruments require States to take measures to protect children from abuse and exploitation, as well as engage in international cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and exploitation crimes. A lack of consistent and appropriate legislation across countries globally, however, remains a major impediment to successful investigations and prosecutions. Individual states vary considerably in their definitions of child abuse and exploitation, and often cannot move fast enough to enact laws that keep pace with technology.

To address these challenges, the Study covers the main forms of ICT-facilitated child abuse and exploitation, including the creation and distribution of child pornography, plus the commercial sexual exploitation of children, cyber-enticement, solicitation and grooming, cyber-bullying, cyber-harassment and cyber-stalking; as well as exposure to harmful content.

This Study, one of UNODC's tools to help states prevent and combat cybercrime, is accompanied by a package of technical assistance which includes law enforcement and judicial training, activities for improved international cooperation and awareness raising tools.

Further information:

UNODC's work against cybercrime

Cybercrime law repository

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