Schoolchildren falling prey to online sexual abuse

  • 58 per cent children between the ages of eight and 12 years are exposed to cyber risk

Kathmandu, March 9

More schoolchildren in the capital are falling prey to online sexual abuse due to their addiction to social networking sites.

Many parents in urban areas give their children uncontrolled access to the Internet which has left the children at high risk of online grooming and sexual abuse of late.

A 16-year-old girl Samanta (name changed) studying in Grade X is a regular user of Facebook. One day she got a friend request from an unknown person. She accepted the request and started chatting with the person.

After regular chatting on Facebook for months, he asked her for a date on Valentine’s Day. But Samanta rejected the proposal. After that day, the person started blackmailing her using her doctored photos. Initially, she didn’t talk about it with anyone because of fear but later she filed a complaint with police.

Likewise, Hira (name changed) studying in Grade XI received pornographic videos, links and messages from one of her Facebook friends. She didn’t know how to react to such videos, but she saved the videos and informed her parents about this. Later on, she also filed a complaint with police with the help of her parents.

“Many children are not aware of the possible cyber risks and they often become the victim of online abuses as they use social media and other networking sites,” said Kriti Bhattrai, programme coordinator at Voice of Children. She said even some abusers were found to be unaware of the possible consequences of their online activities.

According to the baseline survey conducted by Voice of Children in 2017 in Kathmandu valley, 72 per cent of children in the valley have their own Facebook accounts. Two-thirds of these children use Facebook more than four hours a day. “Facebook has become more popular among schoolchildren while only a few children use Instagram, Twitter, etc,” Bhattrai said.

A recent study conducted on ‘Digital Intelligence Quotient Impact Report’ by Apex ICT Institute Suryabinayak, Bhaktapur, reveals that 58 per cent of the children aged between eight and 12 in Nepal are exposed to  cyber risks such as cyber bullying, video game addiction, online grooming and online sexual activities.

During a workshop on ‘Protecting children from online sexual abuse’ organised here today Kundan Aryal, an associate professor at Department of Journalism, Tribhuvan University, said that there was no clarity in cyber law regarding online sexual abuse, bullying, sextortion and streaming of pornographic materials online, among others. He also said that due to parents’ negligence in monitoring theirs children’s online activities, more children were becoming the victims of online sexual abuse.