Impact of Online Child Sexual Exploitation on Children

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Crimes of OCSE can have just as devastating effects on a child as in the offline world. Online child sexual exploitation has extreme consequences which harm the child and can result in lifelong trauma which impact their development.

Identifying signs of online child sexual exploitation is not always easy. While some cases of sexual exploitation of children online involve physical contact between the child and the offender, it is not always the case. The main signs which will normally be apparent will be behavioural changes as well as social, emotional and psychological changes which have been impacted by the online abuse.

The main signs which appear on a child following cases of OCSE can include*:

  • Self-blame and low self esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self-harm
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Nightmares and insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive online use
  • Problems at school
  • Goes missing often
  • Eating disorders
  • Feels uncomfortable around cameras
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Substance abuse
  • Social problems

When physical contact between the perpetrator and the child is involved, further signs may include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)
  • Unusual discharge from genitalia
  • Bruising

Furthermore, being victim of online sexual exploitation will also increase the child’s vulnerabilities to other forms of sexual/physical violence and increase their chances of being re-victimised.

*Keep in mind that not all of these signs will always be apparent after OCSE altogether, and they do not always mean the child has been sexually abused or exploited online, however they are enough to raise suspicions that something is wrong and that the child may need your intervention for help.

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