Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia publishes representative figures on the experience of children between 8 and 18 years of age with sexualised speech on the net
It is not uncommon for children and young people to be contacted by adults with sexual intentions on the internet. This is shown by a representative survey of children and young people commissioned by the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia. Especially the phenomenon of cybergrooming, which describes the contacting of adults with sexual intentions with children and young people, was the focus of the survey. A total of more than 2,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 18 living in Germany were surveyed; the survey was conducted by KB&B Family Marketing Experts.
The figures are alarming. Almost a quarter of all children and young people (24 %) have already been asked out by adults online (8-9 years: 9 %, 10-12 years: 14 %, 13-15 years: 25 %, 16-18 years: 37 %). One in six children or young people (16%) say that they have already been promised something in return for a video or photo by an adult online contact. Every seventh child or young person (14 %) has been asked to undress in front of a webcam for an adult or to turn on the camera of their smartphone. Fifteen percent of the children and young people surveyed also say they have been sent naked pictures without being asked - and these are just some of the scenarios described and asked about in the survey.
Across all school types, these experiences are described relatively frequently by those children and young people who go to a lower secondary school or vocational school. The survey also shows that there are no significant differences between girls and boys. Both gender groups experience sexualised approaches by adults online in equal measure.
The channels on which sexualised speech occurred were also asked about. The respondents have already had this experience on Instagram in particular (31 %), directly followed by WhatsApp (26 %) and Snapchat (24 %). In the case of online games, 9 % of respondents said they had already been approached with sexual intentions in FIFA22 (9 %) and Minecraft (9 %).
"Our lives take place online for many hours a day. Fortunately, this is possible today, otherwise quite a lot would have collapsed in the pandemic. But the results of our survey are frightening and they challenge us - as media regulators, as a constitutional state, as a society. We have to protect children and young people from these attacks without restricting their freedoms. We must educate without scaring. We must hold the perpetrators responsible," said Dr. Tobias Schmid, Director of the Media Authority NRW, commenting on the figures.
Already in June of this year, the Media Authority NRW published a video to raise awareness about the phenomenon of cybergrooming and accompanying material for addressing the issue in schools. The desire to get more support at school is now also reflected in the survey published today. 60 per cent of the children and young people surveyed would like to see this topic dealt with more in the school context, 45 per cent would like to discuss it with their parents. More than one third of the respondents (35%) also express the wish to report suspected cybergrooming to the police or to have it investigated by an independent reporting centre.
The survey was conducted via the online panel FACT family. This is a database with over 30,000 active accounts of children between the ages of zero and eighteen and their parents - making it the only online panel in Germany for representative surveys of children and their parents.