UNICEF Launches Digital Campaign to Protect Cambodian Adolescents against Online Sexual Exploitation

Students queue for temperature checks and handwashing before being allowed into their classrooms at the Bak Touk High School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Jan. 11, 2021. Photo by Sovannara/Xinhua

PHNOM PENH -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Cambodia on Thursday launched an innovative digital campaign to prevent and protect Cambodian adolescents from online sexual predators.

The campaign was made in collaboration with the Cambodian Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said a UNICEF's press release.

Citing a 2022 report, UNICEF said 11 percent of Internet-using children aged 12 to 17 in Cambodia had experienced online sexual exploitation and abuse in the past year.

"That means an estimated 160,000 children were blackmailed into sexual activities, had sexual images shared without their consent, or faced other online abuses," the UNICEF said.

The report also found that 16 percent of children received sexual comments that made them uncomfortable, and almost a third of those said it happened on social media, the UN agency said, adding that 9 percent felt pressured to share sexual pictures of themselves.

"To create effective change, we must approach this topic in accessible, informative, and compassionate ways," said Will Parks, UNICEF Cambodia representative.

"By leveraging storytelling and technology on social media platforms where youth are already active, we can empower and protect them from harm," he added.

The campaign revolves around a series of four short videos featuring two teenagers tackling online sexual extortion with the help of their alter-egos representing the mind and heart, the press release said.

These engaging videos demonstrate practical tips for both preventing and handling sextortion situations, covering themes like accepting friend requests with caution, setting boundaries, being in charge of one's online presence, and seeking help when needed, it added.

"Through the campaign, UNICEF expects to reach more than 2 million adolescents and parents over the next three months," the press release said.

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