Child ‘self-generated’ sexual material online: children and young people’s perspectives

The definition of child ‘self-generated’ sexual material is a complex one. This is partly because it includes a broad range of relational dynamics, interactions, and image-sharing scenarios that can now be said to account for a high proportion of the child sexual abuse content currently being shared online.

Children and young people may create this type of material as a positive and consensual exploration of their sexuality. On the other hand, other ‘self-generated’ material may occur following unwanted pressure or harassment within relationships or even directly through the circumstances of grooming, exploitation, abuse and coercion by adults or other peers. 

In this research conducted with Praesidio Safeguarding, we listened to children and young people’s views on the issue of ‘self-generated’ sexual material in three different country contexts – Ghana, Thailand and Ireland. We conducted qualitative data gathering in the form of small focus groups with children aged 13-17. We encouraged them to share their general thoughts about how and why ‘self-generated’ sexual materials were shared, their views on responses to this issue and their ideas on how this could be improved.

Watch these animated videos featuring children’s voices

Key findings


These recommendations come from direct suggestions from children in this study and are based on their key messages. We have identified actions that would help realise the changes that children wanted.

  • Improved education

Governments and schools should review their educational responses to child ‘self-generated’ sexual content.

  • Non-judgmental support

Governments, schools and civil society should provide children with confidential support from trained adults.

  • Institutional change

Legal reforms are needed to ensure children are not criminalised for possessing or sharing their own images either as victims or in a consensual way with another child or young person.

  • Tech solutions

Companies should provide high-quality information from online influencers and educators, and invest in technical solutions to respond to the circulation of ‘self-generated’ sexual material.

  • Clear and effective language

Relevant and effective language should be used when talking about these issues, with a review of the term ‘self-generated’ sexual material for practitioners.

Briefing paper

This report was researched and written by Dr Zoe Hilton and Helen King, with support from
Liz Curtis, Dr Elly Hanson, Chloe Setter, Jess Lishak and Delali Mortty.

WeProtect Global Alliance would like to thank all the children, young people and professionals in Ghana, Thailand and Ireland who gave up their time to share their views and perspectives on these issues with the research team.

The Alliance would also like to thank the member of the Advisory Group for their support
and guidance in the development of this report