‘Self-generated’ sexual material

The volume of child ‘self-generated’ sexual material has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

Child ‘self-generated’ sexual material is not a form of online harm per se. It can be produced voluntarily and shared as part of a developmentally appropriate exchange between adolescents. However, there are scenarios in which harm is caused, mainly:

  • When a child or adolescent is coerced into producing ‘self-generated’ sexual material.
  • When voluntarily ‘self-generated’ sexual material is shared against an adolescent’s wishes.
  • When non-sexual material is misused for sexual purposes.

We refer to this phrase in quotation marks (“self-generated”) to avoid implying willingness on the part of the child or young person involved.

How common is the sharing of sexual images and messages among young people?

map of self generated material

Acts of blaming victims of child ‘self-generated’ sexual material are still widespread. Such attitudes fuel stigmas that can prevent children from disclosing and reporting their experiences of abuse.

You can find more detailed information about the issue of child ‘self-generated’ sexual material, and child sexual abuse online, more widely, in our latest Global Threat Assessment.