Online safety for children

It is difficult to find children who are not using the internet, social media and mobile phones. The number of internet users has been increasing globally including in our country. This has many benefits but along with their widespread uses, the cases of internet crime and online safety are rising over the years. Especially it is being difficult to protect children and teens from the internet and cyber spaces.

The most common issue of online safety includes child pornography, grooming for harm, exposure to pornography and other harmful materials, cyber bullying, online games and involvement in criminal activities. The new form of internet bullying has become commonplace. Sexual harassment by using emails, text and social networking via notorious photographs and videos are online bullying. This kind of bullying causes the largest number of suicides globally.

The growing reach of the internet and social media has  harmed children even in the rural areas. Sexual abuse through the internet has become common because of the proliferation of smartphones, mobile internet and cyberspaces.

Nepal Police is receiving a lot of cases where children and teens first become friends through the social media, develop a relationship, take and exchange nude photographs and later are blackmailed for money or sexual relationship.

Nepal lacks clear laws and policies to deal with online safety especially violence related with social media. On the other hand the practice of reporting such cases is very few due to the fear of confidentiality.  The existing Children Act of Nepal doesn’t mention the protection of children from online harms.  Digital divide between children and their parents is also a major concern.

Therefore, it is very important to start  awareness campaign regarding online safety and cyber securities. It’s necessary to train children on what the internet is and how to use it properly, learn about privacy setting and the advantages and disadvantages of the social media.

The internet  can be a wonderful resource for children. They can use it to prepare school reports, communicate with friend, teacher and play interactive games. But the access to the internet sometimes may pose hazards. That’s why it is important to be aware what actually children see and hear on the internet, who they meet and what they share about themselves online.