#Youth joins the fight against Child Online Sexual Exploitation

In 2016 I had the opportunity to represent the Youth Advisory Council at a regional Leadership in Empowering and Activating child helplines to Protect children online (LEAP) meeting in Paraguay and discuss how to combat child sexual exploitation. It was the first Child Helpline International meeting that I’ve gone to by myself, as the only representative of the Youth Advisory Council, so I wanted to perform as best as possible!

A story by Teryn


The general purpose of the LEAP meeting was to bring together different regional stakeholders to discuss how child helplines can play a role in supporting children who have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing, online sexual exploitation. I was expecting to meet representatives from regional child helplines as well as a few members of the telecommunications industry. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were many other stakeholders at the meeting as well: government officials, law enforcement officials, and staff members from large national and international organisations.

My role in the meeting was to speak on a panel during the final day. I spoke about the importance of including youth in the effort to reduce online sexual exploitation of children. In particular, I tried to emphasise how important it is to include youth beyond the initial polls and surveys that aim to figure out how youth are using technology. They must also be included in for example the planning and implementation of any Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaigns and protocols for crisis intervention.

It is essential to include youth beyond the initial polls and surveys

Speaking at the meeting wasn’t actually that difficult. I’d done a bit of public speaking by then, and I didn’t get too nervous. The difficult part was figuring out what to say. As an American, I always worry about being perceived as the ‘know-it-all American’ when I’m in diverse, international spaces. One of the things I’ve learned from other members of the Youth Advisory Council is that the things that work in America don’t work everywhere else. We have different cultures, resources, and values and it’s not my place to impose my beliefs and cultures on other people.

  • The LEAP meeting brought together a range of different stakeholders to discuss child sexual exploitation.

I think that’s what I found to be the coolest thing about the LEAP meeting – the meeting wasn’t about Child Helpline International bringing a bunch of stakeholders together and telling them what to do. It was about bringing people together, helping them find a common language to discuss online sexual exploitation of children, and then giving people the space to share their ideas. There were no right or wrong ideas – just space to discuss.

On my final night in Paraguay I found myself thinking that all of the people who attended have some role to play in ending the online sexual exploitation of children. But none of them can solve this immense problem by working alone. Without the LEAP event, what would the chances have been for all of these people meeting in one room to discuss how to work together?

There were no right or wrong ideas – just space to discuss

I learned a lot about how Child Helpline International is able to use its resources to bring people together and facilitate important conversations. I didn’t realize exactly how important that was until having this experience. I’m very thankful to have been a part of this experience. I’m thankful for the people who listened to me when I spoke. But I’m most thankful for being given the opportunity to attend the meeting and hear the ideas of other people.