The nature of online sexual exploitation is widely misunderstood: “Instead of pedophiles (ie individuals with sexual interests in children) preying on young children, most Internet-initiated sex crimes involve young adults (mostly men) who target and seduce teenagers into sexual encounters.” Similarly, child sexual abuse material is most frequently produced by victims’ family members, with fathers being the single most common perpetrators. Even in cases of sextortion, 60 percent of youth who are victims know the perpetrators offline.

As adults, we want to foster resilience in young people, starting when they’re young. This can be done by teaching them how to handle harassing messages or requests that make them feel uncomfortable – on the internet or in the schoolyard – and, as they get older, by teaching them how to spot and respond to emotional manipulation. The good news is that most teens are effectively handling online requests from strangers – the bigger challenge is helping them handle sexual advances from people they know.

Internet and mobile communications technologies offer a wealth of opportunities for fun, learning, and exploration. They also present parents and teachers with a host of concerns and worries. In this section, you can find resources on how to tackle these issues in a positive way.

The Internet offers young people important opportunities to socialize with their friends and families as well as to find people who share common interests and communities that can provide emotional support. It is also inevitable that at an age where young people are starting to explore their sexuality offline, they will do so online in these interactive environments as well.

It’s important to understand the real risks young people face on the Internet, especially in regards to sexual exploitation. Who is at risk of sexual harm and why? What activities are markers for higher risk and how can we protect those youth who are most vulnerable. This section explores these topics.