New UNODC campaign set to raise awareness of online child sexual exploitation

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Bangkok (Thailand), 25 April 2024 – A new initiative to raise awareness on how to deal with and prevent online child sexual exploitation and abuse was launched today by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The campaign, called Beware the Share, targets children, parents, guardians, and government agencies in Southeast Asia.

Estimates show that one in three internet users in the world is a child. In Southeast Asia, the average screen time for school-aged children — those aged 6 to 14 — is about 2.77 hours per day, exceeding the recommended two hours a day, according to a systematic review. In Malaysia alone, more than 90% of those aged between 13 and 17 have a social media account.

“The massive digitalization that followed the COVID-19 pandemic and the greater and easier access to the internet have allowed for an increase in children’s online use,” said Joshua James, UNODC’s Regional Counter-Cybercrime Coordinator.“ But this increase has revealed disturbing trends in Southeast Asia.”

From 2019 to 2022, Malaysia reported 850,000 abuse reports, with nearly 200,000 of these in 2022 alone. Laos registered 25,000 in the same year. Viet Nam registered almost three million reports during 2019 and 2022, with approximately 950,000 in 2022, while Thailand reported close to two million in that period and 525,000 in 2022.

When visiting the campaign page, users from across Southeast Asia can play quizzes and watch video-game-style stories.
When visiting the campaign page, users from across Southeast Asia can play quizzes and watch video-game-style stories.

Nearly eight million were reported in the Philippines from 2019 to 2022 — two and a half million of which were reported in 2022 alone. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. These numbers are solely based on reports registered through CyberTipline, a US-based platform where child sexual exploitation can be reported from around the world. Millions more are being currently abused sexually and extorted online, be it as children or as adults whose material is still being used years after they were exploited in their childhood.

“These frightening statistics highlight a huge upsurge in online child sexual exploitation incidents, an upsurge that requires swift and decisive measures to protect children in the digital space,” James added.

Online child sexual exploitation and abuse has a detrimental impact on children, who are often unaware of how to behave online in a way that can protect them from abuse. Through its new Beware the Share campaign, UNODC aims to raise awareness among children and parents of the short- and long-term consequences of engaging in risky and sometimes dangerous online behaviour that can result in negative consequences mentally, legally, and socially for themselves and others.

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The core campaign message? Children: think before you click that ‘share’ button.

The campaign aims to inform those potentially affected that:  

  • Producing, sharing, and distributing sexualized content of a minor, including self-generated content, is a crime in Southeast Asia and has serious consequences for those involved.
  • Predators and “groomers” can take advantage and manipulate children to share sexualized content and extort further imagery and even monetary payments if they do not comply.
  • There is an established reporting system to authorities. Solutions are available for those who are experiencing some form of online abuse. There is a way out of their predicament; the emotional and practical support they need is available to them.

The campaign centres around its main page (, where users from across Southeast Asia can play games and quizzes on the topic and watch videos in their local language. The videos feature video-game-style characters and messaging to make the stories relatable and engaging for the younger audience. The site also contains direct contacts that victims can reach out to discreetly if they believe that they, or someone they know, is being abused online.

With funding from the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, the campaign will run across five countries in the region, namely: Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, and will be amplified through influencers.

Check out the campaign here and use the hashtag #bewaretheshare when referring to it.

Click here to learn more about UNODC’s work in the field of cybercrime.

The campaign videos feature relatable characters to make the stories engaging to the young audiences.
The campaign videos feature relatable characters to make the stories engaging to the young audiences.