Social environment

In a recent 12-month period, 367 million people first used the internet around the world. The international criminal police organisation INTERPOL estimates that this includes 1.8 million men with a sexual interest in children who are newly online. Some though not all of them will become sexual offenders. 

Entry into the digital world is different between those societies which have adopted internet services progressively and those that are leaping to technology parity. Countries in the Global South are receiving the full spectrum of internet services almost instantaneously, without the time to evolve educational and support arrangements, law enforcement or regulatory responses to match.

Local environmental factors can increase vulnerability and make it difficult to establish agreement internationally over what constitutes abuse. These local factors also increase the challenge of any international response to child safeguarding, offender identification and apprehension.

The surge in internet accessibility has increased the risk of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in many countries where mobile and broadband technology are still recent innovations. Often in these countries, the necessary support resources, education guidelines and safeguarding measures to combat it are not yet technically mature. 

As a result, increasing numbers of young people in developing nations are using the internet while unaware of the risks they face online or of available international support services.