Understanding and preventing sexual exploitation of children

Understanding and Preventing Sexual Exploitation of Children

Children are innocents that are under the protection of their own families and the government authorities. Unfortunately, they, like adults, can also become victims of all forms of abuse, including sexual exploitation. This form of child abuse can come in many forms and has both immediate and long-term consequences for victims. It is, therefore, important to understand sexual exploitation of children and prevention measures that can be taken to protect them.

What is sexual exploitation of children?

Sexual exploitation of children refers to the pressuring or involving of children and adolescents into sexual activities that they do not fully understand, or cannot consent to, or which violate social and cultural taboos. It can result from both highly organized activities like human trafficking, and from lower level, individual activities, such as exchanging money, drugs, or gifts in exchange for sex with children. It is an important issue to note that this practice can also occur through on-line activities.

Effects and Consequences

The effects of being sexually exploited can be physical, mental, and emotional. Victims of sexual exploitation often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other psychological issues. Victims may also struggle with self-esteem, identity issues, risky behaviours, and addictions.

How to Prevent Sexual Exploitation of Children

There are many steps that can be taken to help prevent sexual exploitation of children.

  • Stay Alert and Watch for Warning Signs – Watch for any changes in a child’s behaviour or personality, such as sudden changes in mood, uncharacteristic secrecy, withdrawal from normal routines, or start to show signs of depression.
  • Be Open and Listen to Children – Communication and trust between parents, caregivers and children are essential to help protect children from exploitation. Listen to and talk to your children, show interest in them and their lives, express genuine care and appreciation, be approachable and non-judgemental when they turn to you.
  • Be Informed and Educate About Exploitation – Stay informed on exploitation issues, including when they occurred and their consequences on victim’s lives. Use this information to educate and provide children with the right understanding of exploitations and the safeguards they have.
  • Ensure Online Safety – Children are exposed to online risks. To help protect them, they should use appropriate safety tools when using the Internet, avoid publicly displaying their personal information, not contact unknown people, and take their time in getting to know people.

It is essential for everybody to be aware of the dangers of sexual exploitation of children and the measures needed to help protect them. Through early identifying of any potential issues, providing support to victims, and educating about exploitation, it is possible to greatly reduce the chances of exploitation, and ultimately protect children from harm.


1. In Guide, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). (2020). Protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse – A practical guide. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/WG_Sentences_Practical_Guide_Sexual_Exploitation_2020.pdf

2. Save the Children International. (2020). How to Protect Children From Sexual Exploitation. Retrieved from https://www.savethechildren.org/us/about-us/media-and-news/2019-press-releases/how-to-protect-children-from-sexual-exploitation

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