More than 8,000 Israeli minors were attacked online in 2022

The two platforms where minors were harassed most were Instagram and WhatsApp.

 Illustrative image of a teen with a phone. (photo credit: PEXELS)
Illustrative image of a teen with a phone.
(photo credit: PEXELS)

In 2022, the 105 hotline dealt with about 8,133 incidents where minors were targeted online, according to data published by the National Security Ministry this week regarding sexual harassment online.

The report also showed that the platforms where minor were targeted most were Instagram (31%) and WhatsApp (26%), and more than half of the located perpetrators were minors aged 13-16.

"The safe activity of children and youths online is more important than anything," said National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Furthermore, according to the report, most of the victims were aged between 12 and 14, and among the attacks, 34% were sexual harassment, and 21% were incidents in which sexual photos and videos of the victims were distributed online.

Also, 73% of the victims were girls. The most common forms of attack against girls were also sexual harassment (42%) and distribution of sexual media (25%). The rest of the attacks were sexual blackmailing, sexual messaging, indecent acts and virtual rape.

The hotline for complaints on online harassment of children operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.   (credit: PUBLIC SECURITY MINISTRY)The hotline for complaints on online harassment of children operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (credit: PUBLIC SECURITY MINISTRY)

The data also showed that girls are harmed more on platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp than boys who are harmed more on Discord (a platform for communicating in video games). Of the located perpetrators, 87% were boys, 57% of whom were minors and 43% adults, and most of the attacks on boys were sexual blackmailing (42%) and distribution of sexual media (25%).

The National Headquarters for the Protection of Children Online said that often, the victims choose not to complain out of feelings of shame, guilt or fear of stigma, not being believed or from threats of the perpetrator to make the attack worse or attack others in the same way.

Therefore, the environment's reaction to revelations of attacks is significant to the process of treatment and rehabilitation of the victims. Positive reactions will lead to less symptoms of crisis in the long-term while negative reactions will cause a significant rise in symptoms.

What to do if your child is attacked online:

If your child is attacked online, here are some tips from the National Headquarters for the Protection of Children Online on how to react:

  • It's most important to make sure the attack is over, and if it isn't, to stop it. Turn to the 105 hotline which is available 24 hours a day.
  • Help the children to recognize the strength they showed in dealing with the situation and sharing.The knowledge that they were attacked is difficult, and it is extremely important to be there for them, listen to them support them, be around to help and get help from professionals.
  • Listen to their needs. Questions like "What happened?" and "How?" can stress them out and feel like prying. Talk to them about their feelings and experience rather than the incident itself. They need a safe space where they can share what they are thinking and feeling. It's important to leave it to their pace without pressing it. Focus on them. Ask them "How do you feel?" and "What do you need or want to have right now?"
  • Different children have different needs. Listen to their personal needs and adapt the conversation to the child's personality, age and the type of attack.
  • Sexual abuse is experienced differently in each person, and every thought and emotion is legitimate. It's important to be empathetic and sensitive.
  • Children look to adults and learn from them, also in difficult moments. It's important to be a stable anchor for them, give off security and make it clear that they are not alone and you won't let what heppened affect how you see them.

In order to prevent an attack, it's important to talk to children regularly about safe and responsible activity online, the dangers to stay safe from and that you are always there from them.

In any case of children being attacked online dial 105 at any time of the day or night.