Stop Online Predators, Protect Our Children, Says Content Forum

Almost 60% of sexual crime victims in Malaysia are children.
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We face a pressing matter here in Malaysia: the alarming rise of child sexual exploitation (CSE). It robs young victims of their childhood while potentially traumatising or scarring them. These issues can also negatively interfere with a child’s mental, emotional, and psychological development.

CSE can happen both acutely and gradually over a period of time. It is one of the most extreme instances of child abuse, and usually involves perpetrators or abusers gaining the trust of a child only to control them with sex-related blackmail, threats, or even violence. Something needs to be done – and quickly!

Recently, ACP Siti Kamsiah Hassan, the principal assistant director of the Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division (D11) of the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), stated that almost 60% of sexual crime victims in Malaysia were children.

Citing data, she said that 2,567 out of 4,274 victims of sexual crimes in 2020, including those in rape, gang rape, incest, unnatural sex and molestation cases, were children.

Credit: Malay Mail

Meanwhile, the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun revealed that CSE in Malaysia has been on the rise, with a whopping 106,764 Internet Protocol (IP) addresses identified for the involvement of child pornography within a six-year span between 2017 and August 2022. 

More recently, a young Malaysian child actress opened up about her traumatising ordeal with a father who was alleged to have been mentally, sexually, and physically abusive towards her since the tender age of five. But, this case being brought to light is just the tip of the iceberg.

Even with the increase in cases, many more remain unreported due to a lack of awareness. The graver part is that most victims do not know where or how to get help. So, the extent of the problem is, in actuality, much bigger than the figures show. 

As an extension to CSE, Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OSCEA) of children is something that especially warrants immediate concern. With children and teenagers becoming increasingly dependent on the Internet, there is an increased risk of OSCEA becoming an even more significant issue than it already is. 

This brings up the pertinent question: how can we keep our precious children safe?

Credit: Malay Mail

Awareness of Children’s Online Activities is Vital

Parents and guardians should have more control over their children’s online activities, especially their social media accounts and the content viewed online. According to the National Family Month Opinion Survey 2020 by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), parental control over their children’s Internet usage decreased from 62.5% in 2018 to 53.3% in 2020.

Relying on parental controls may not be as effective as online predators are developing new ways to reach out to innocent, vulnerable children. 

Parents should understand the signs of CSE and OSCEA and immediately step in to help their children understand malicious threats while filtering out inappropriate content. Some signs of children experiencing CSE include temperamental fluctuations and mood swings. In addition, physical signs such as bruising and body marks, trauma, mental instability, and engaging in inappropriate sexual behaviour can also indicate exposure to CSE.

On top of that, parents should also educate their children about the risks of sharing too much personal information online, especially their location, home address, contact information, etc.

Credit: Malay Mail

 Educating Children and Bringing Awareness Can Make a Change

Schools and educational institutions should also teach children about their rights and boundaries. Every school should also incorporate an age-appropriate digital literacy curriculum to educate our youth about how to be safe from online predators in the virtual space.

Another way to protect our children from online predators is by regulating online content, where the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code (Content Code) can be instrumental. It is a set of guidelines that outline the best practices and ethical standards for content creation, including content for children.

In the Content Code, there is a provision for Obscene Content that upholds children’s safety, especially regarding online spaces. This includes sexual degradation and child pornography, which denotes the depiction of any part of a minor’s body in a sexual context.

With the code as a reference, content creators and consumers, young and old, are urged to practice self-regulation and recognise what is harmful content and what is not.

Credit: Malay Mail

Keeping our Children Safe

More should be done to ensure the safety of our children. For instance, a user-friendly platform should be set up to report online child pornography or CSE, especially one that allows for anonymity to protect the victim’s identity. There should also be more support available to victims to reach out and talk to directly without red tape or judgement. Besides that, there should be more awareness about digital parenting to prepare and equip parents with the right tools and knowledge to keep their children safe.

From parents to government bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the general public, everyone has a part to play in keeping our children safe from online predators and explicit or inappropriate content.

In fact, anyone can help sexually abused children by reporting such cases to the police, seeking help from government hospitals, or even the Social Welfare Department. When speaking to a sexually abused child, always be patient and use a language that the child understands. Comfort and reassure the child that this is not their fault and let them open up at their own pace rather than pushing persistently for more information.

It is vital to also refer such cases to designated and experienced professionals that have the capacity to handle the issues at hand better. These are individuals like social workers, counsellors, and even education professionals equipped to intervene in child abuse cases.

Making Malaysia a safer and better place for future generations begins with us, so let us all lend a hand in putting CSE and OCSEA at a standstill.

For more details about the Content Forum or the Content Code, visit www.contentforum.my

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