A growing number of children are falling prey to sexual exploitation with the misuse of internet in recent days, according to a study conducted by the Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre.

The study shows that along with the internet's negative impact on children, they have also faced online sexual exploitation.

CWIN had conducted the study in 2020 on online sexual exploitation of children in all the seven provinces of the country.

The study also found that incidents of online sexual abuse of children and teenagers had transcended the virtual world of the computer and cyberspace and expanded to face-to-face meeting and sexual abuse.

Male children and adolescents account for nearly twice the number of children facing such mistreatment compared to female children and adolescents.

The study covered 1,714 children belonging to the age group nine to 19 years.

The study found that many children dropped school after facing online sexual exploitation, affecting their day-to-day life.

CWIN Executive Director Sumnima Tuladhar said that compared to girls more boys faced pressure to post nude photo, sexting and nude videos online.

The study found that among those pressing the children to send and text sexually explicit photos, audio and video, included lovers, peers, close friends and in many situations strangers as well. It is found that some foreigners are also involved in such activities.

Similarly, it has been found that social networking sites and email have mostly been used as the medium for sending sex-related materials to girlfriends, boyfriends and close friends, while social networking sites, email, unknown links and phones are used for sending such materials to unknown persons and foreigners.

A study report reads, "Around 63.36 per cent males and 34.35 per cent females had asked children to be naked in front of the camera. Those exerting pressure to be naked are their friends, boy friends or girl friends, relatives, close friends and some unknown persons."

Among the respondents, 137 (7.99 per cent) were asked to be naked in front of camera. Similarly, 58 male (62 per cent), 47 female (34.31 percent) and two people (1.46 per cent) from marginalised community had to face pressure to get naked.

They were asked to strip by their friends, closest friends, boy friends, girl friends, relatives, some unknown persons, and foreigners.

Out of 1,714 respondents, 457 people (26.66 per cent) were found to have met unknown persons online. Of them, 154 (33 per cent) had met physically the unknown persons. All of them, who went to meet them, were sexually exploited in some form or the other.

Out of the total respondents, 340 (19.83 percent) mentioned that they faced unintentional online sexual abuse.

The number of girl respondents facing online sexual abuse is high compared to boys. A large number of people facing online sexual abuse were mentally affected.

Of the 340 respondents who fell victim to sexual abuse, 48 (14.12 per cent) dropped out of school as a result. Of them, only 15 sought counselling and the remaining 34 said they faced difficulties in their life following the crime. Of those, who sought counselling, only nine got the service.

Of the 340 respondents, who survived sexual abuse, 233 (68.53 per cent) reported the crime to family members or friends or police.

Following the incident, they went through situations wherein they had to disconnect themselves from society in shame by removing their social networking site accounts, blocking phone numbers, ignoring phone calls and SMS, avoiding internet use, changing phone SIM cards and opening new accounts in social sites.

Of the respondents, 253 (14.76 per cent) reported being victims of cyber bullying, of which 175 (10.21 per cent) faced it after being encouraged by their parents.

Kathmandu and Makawanpur districts in Bagmati Province reported high number of cyber bullying cases (27 per cent) followed by Dhanusha in Province 2 with 18 per cent.

A version of this article appears in the print on February 11, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.