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Safely in Digital Environments

The original Finnish text has been published in the guide “Kysy, kohtaa, kuuntele. Opas seksuaalisen houkuttelun ja seksuaaliväkivallan ennaltaehkäisyyn nuorisotyössä”, Koordinaatti.
Although this article deals with young people, children may also be targets of sexual solicitation and harassment.

WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Discord, FaceTime, YouTube and digital games are examples of social media where children and young people obtain information, have conversations, meet new people and maintain existing social relationships.

Every child has the right to use media, be included and receive media education. However, living in a media culture and digital environments requires a diverse range of skills and readiness that can only be strengthened with the help of adults.

Media and digital safety skills are civic skills that strengthen children’s wellbeing, agency and inclusion in the media culture. Adequate media skills also protect children and young people from the harmful effects of media use and the negative phenomena around it. However, we still need the ability to identify harassment, solicitation and inappropriate behaviour, in addition to the courage to broach negative topics.

Digital safety skills also provide ways to anticipate threatening or suspicious situations and take action. It is important for children to understand that according to Finnish law everyone is entitled to personal integrity and inviolability, and the law also applies in digital environments.

Sexual harassment and solicitation can concern children of any gender from a variety of backgrounds. A common assumption is that children who are harassed online are in a marginalized position to start with or they have been previously mistreated in life. A young person with no predisposing factors in their life can also fall victim of sexual violence in digital environments.
The children and young people who lack safe support networks and adult presence at home or in other growth environments may, however, be in the most vulnerable position in the online world. These children may not have obtained enough guidance on how to behave online. Media education should also pay special attention to children belonging to various minority groups, because many of them experience discrimination online and would benefit from talking to a safe adult about it.

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