With the world becoming increasingly digital, crime appears to follow suit at an even faster rate. According to a report by the New York Times, in 2018, major tech companies such as Google and Facebook (Meta), reported over 45 million photos and videos of children being sexually abused on their platforms.
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command defines child sexual abuse as forcing or enticing a child to partake in sexual activity, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. It covers acts such as engaging a child in penetrative sex, touching their genitals or compelling them to touch another person’s genitals, and non-touching activities such as photographing a child in sexual postures and exposing them to pornographic materials.
Online child sexual abuse involves the use of technology or the internet to facilitate the sexual abuse of a child.
- Online grooming: This is the process of getting close to a child to abuse them both online and offline. It could be done by gaining the trust of the child on a social media platform.
- An adult engaging a child in vulgar and obscene chat i.e. Sexting
- Asking a child to perform sexual activities, reveal their body, or share a sexual image
- Creating, possessing or sharing indecent images of children
- Sending nude images or videos to children
- Blackmailing a child with sexual images or videos of the child
- Sharing Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), cartoons, etc. which portray a child engaging in a sexual act.
Are there any laws in Nigeria to protect against online child sexual abuse?
Section 14 of the Cybercrime Act criminalizes child pornography and other related offences. Its provisions are robust and prohibit a person from:
- intentionally using a computer or network system to produce, distribute, procure or have in possession child pornography.
- intentionally grooming or soliciting information through ICT to meet a child for the purpose of engaging in sexual activities and abuse.
- recruiting, inducting, coercing or causing a child to participate in pornographic performances or profiting from exploiting such a child.
Punishment ranges from 5-20 years imprisonment and fines as high as 20 million naira.
Section 42(e) of the Cybercrime Act goes on to define sexually explicit conduct in relation to online child sexual abuse: “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or the public area of the child. It is not relevant whether the conduct depicted is real or simulated.” This invariably protects against CGI, cartoons and the likes portraying a child in sexual acts.
The Childs Rights Act also contains relevant provisions. Sections 35-37 of the Act prohibits a person from importing, printing, publishing, hiring or selling harmful publication. Harmful publication is defined as any book, film, video or audio tape or any other medium targeted or likely to fall in the hands of children which contains stories with
- acts of violence or cruelty
- incidents or repulsive behaviour,
- acts or words of an immoral character
- obscene and indecent representation.
An adult guilty of such acts faces 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of fifty thousand naira.
Signs Of Online Child Sexual Abuse Parents Should Look Out For:
Outlined below are some signs parents and guardians can look out for:
- Unexplained relationships with older people
- A change in the use of words/language the child uses
- Showing sexual behaviours which is not in line with their age/stage of development
- Changes in their online habits – spending more/less time online, only being online in private
- They have unexplained gifts, expensive clothes, mobile phones
- Unexplained money or frequently taking part in activities requiring money
- Changes in mood, behaviour and/or eating habits
- Always tired
- Staying out late, not returning home
- Change in appearance or borrowing clothes from others
- Truancy or drop in performance at school
- Regularly using drugs or drinking alcohol
Ways To Protect Your Child Against Online Child Sexual Abuse
- Educate your child on safe internet use: Talk to them about both the positive and negative aspects and impacts of the internet, and emphasize why it is important to only use the internet for positive things such as learning more about their school topics.
- Monitor their internet usage and access to social media: You can easily connect your child’s accounts to yours. Alternatively you can download parental control apps or software such as Norton Family.
- Enable the privacy feature on their social media accounts to prevent potential predators from gaining access to them.
- Enable third-party sites or settings that prevent them from access to harmful sites or content e.g. Enable Google Safe Search settings on your child’s internet browser. This helps to manage explicit content such as violence and pornography from showing up when they use the search engine.
- Toggle all platforms for children: Most digital and Social media apps all have kids platforms that make it safe for use: Always ensure your child is using the kids version of a platform such as Netflix kids and YouTube kids app.
- Speak to your child more, and engage with them more offline
- Limit their screentime
It is important as parents to note that it is not the fault of your child. It is necessary to cut off all means of communication between the perpetrator and your child, educate your child on sexual boundaries and protection.
For support or resources you can contact Cece Yara Or to help report a case of online sexual abuse contact us with our helpline- 0800- 800-8001.