A little more than half of the children surveyed in Southeast Asia say they have received some form of unwanted sexual content online, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

The study, involving 301 children between the ages of 11 to 18 in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia, revealed that 51.7% of those surveyed had been a recipient of a sexual message, image or video that they did not want.

Meanwhile, 22.8% of them said they have experienced being asked to talk about sexual acts by someone online when they did not want to, while 17.6% had been asked for a photo or video of their private parts.

The report added that both boys and girls had reported being asked for explicit pictures, with only a handful deciding to report these requests to their parents.

“Most immediately blocked the sender but some would send a response asking the stranger not to send them the image, or asking why they had sent it. This would typically result in a request that the teen send an image or the stranger would send another picture.

“When asked to share their experiences confidentially through the self-report questionnaire, seven out of 10 children said they had experienced something online that had upset them over the past year.

“Two out of five reported they had bad experiences they would not want to share or talk to anyone about,” said the report.

Most respondents, especially girls, also said they have accepted friend requests from strangers, more so if the person was a female as it seemed safer than requests from males.

The report called for technology companies to make social media profiles private by default to safeguard the privacy of children, adding that WhatsApp was one app in particular that needed to be monitored closely.

It also said children should be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to keep themselves safe online, while parents and teachers needed to hone their digital skills as well.

The report also noted that the children surveyed had their own steps to protect themselves, including fake names on their profiles, multiple social media accounts as well as blocking “creepy behaviour”.

Those surveyed were primarily children from the urban poor, with 163 girls and 138 boys taking part.

Of the 301 respondents, 127 were from Malaysia, 77 from Indonesia, 61 from Cambodia and 36 from Thailand.

50% of kids receive unwanted sexual content online, says Unicef

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Published: 19the September 2020.

50% of S.E. Asian Children receive Unwanted Sexual Content Online, says Unicef