Since sexual abuse is increasingly facilitated by technology, but the prevalence and dynamics of such offenses have not been well delineated, making it difficult to design prevention strategies, this study examined the frequency and characteristics of online and technology-facilitated sexual abuse against children and youth.
In this nationally representative online survey study performed from November 19 to December 29, 2021, young adults aged 18 to 28 years were asked questions retrospectively about their childhood (<18 years) experiences of online and technology-facilitated abuse. The 2,649 participants were sampled from an online panel. Participants were asked questions about 11 different kinds of online and technology-facilitated abuse with follow-up questions about their dynamics and offenders. Prevalence rates were calculated for several cross-cutting concepts (online child sexual abuse, image-based sexual abuse, self-produced child sexual abuse images, nonconsensual sexting, online grooming by adults, revenge pornography, sextortion, and online commercial sexual exploitation). Survey weights were applied to obtain population prevalence estimates. A total of 2,639 individuals (48.5 percent male, 49.8 percent female, and 1.8 percent other gender; 23.7 percent Hispanic, 12.6 percent non-Hispanic White, 4.8 percent other race, and 5.0 percent= 2 races) were surveyed. Percentages who experienced each of the types of sexual abuse are reported. The results of this national survey study suggest that a considerable portion of youth have experienced online child sexual abuse. Professionals planning prevention and intervention strategies for online sexual abuse should understand that dynamics include diverse episodes that are often extensions of dating abuse, sexual bullying, and sexual harassment, not only events perpetrated by adult internet providers. (Publisher abstract provided)