FEB 7, 2024. MEDIA RELEASE

ChildFund NZ joins global experts to prevent child abuse online

Media release. ChildFund NZ joins global experts to prevent child abuse online

Reports of online child sexual abuse material have increased 15,000% over the last 15 years, with nine out of ten victims aged between 3 and 12 years, says ChildFund CEO Josie Pagani.

“These are shocking statistics. Children in the most vulnerable communities living in poverty or conflict zones are most at risk, but the threat is there for New Zealand children too.”

An estimated 750,000 individuals set out to connect with children online for sexual purposes at any one time—whether on social media, online gaming sites, or via email.

In 2022, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children analysed over 32 million reports of child and sexual abuse online received from across the globe and reported an 87% increase from just 2019.

In the same year, New Zealand received nearly 30,000 reports of possible child abuse online. This is almost double the number of victims – and perpetrators – of online child exploitation since 2019, mirroring the global spike.

Josie Pagani and Simon Whyte, the Chair of both ChildFund New Zealand and of the global Alliance, were part of the ChildFund hosted WEB Safe & Wise conference in Manila, Philippines this week.

The Philippines has been identified as a center for the production of child sex abuse materials. Nearly half a million Filipino children in 2022 were trafficked online via live streaming, often by relatives or people they know, in order to produce child sexual exploitation material.

The WEB Safe & Wise initiative, launched by ChildFund in partnership with other organisations is a joint global defense against the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

This week was also Safer Internet Day which highlights the risks to children online, and how best to keep them safe, whether in New Zealand, the Pacific or across the world.

Keeping children safer requires a much sharper focus on the following:

  • Pressure on social media companies to build their platforms with ‘seatbelts’ to be safer for children.
  • Resources for parent and teacher education.
  • Mandatory regulations and legislation to require online service providers and platforms to detect and remove illegal content like child sexual abuse, in line with the Australian Online Safety Act 2021.
  • Resources to track and arrest perpetrators, and tougher sentences for online child abusers.
  • Support for surviving children to recover.

“A key goal of WEB Safe & Wise is to strengthen laws and policies that provide this protection, and to get there, it’s critical that people understand the gravity of this threat,” says ChildFund Board Chair Simon Whyte.

ChildFund Alliance is a global network of 11 child-focused development and humanitarian organisation, including ChildFund NZ. Together we reach nearly 36 million children and their family members in 70 countries.