Unicef India on Thursday launched a report providing a comprehensive overview of the current risks and threats faced by children while using the internet and social media and how they can be protected. Besides providing details of the various forms of cyber-crimes against children, including sex-texting, online grooming, production and distribution of child harmful material, and cyber bullying, the report provides various recommendations to address the issue of under-reporting of such cases.
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Speaking at the launch in New Delhi, Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, said the Ministry is taking steps to block sites depicting child abuse.
“However, given the nature of the menace, this requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including service providers, content providers, civil society and regulatory authorities,” he said.
The report states that offline forms of crime and violence against children are ending new forms of expression in the online world and their effects on children are amplified. Being able to stay anonymous online and impersonate others may embolden people into offensive and criminal acts and lower the deterrent potential of laws.
Besides under reporting of cyber-crimes against children in the country, the issue has received very little attention and is not even included in the National Crime Records Bureau statistics as a separate category, states the report.
The report also stresses the importance to empower parents, professionals and policymakers to play an active role in preventing and protecting children from child online abuse and exploitation.
A safe online ecosystem for children requires technical solutions and a high degree of preparedness, collaboration and coordination among stakeholders.
“This report is an important step in the direction of child online protection and safety and will go a long way in improving child online protection measures in our country,” said Stuti Kacke, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
“No single agency or government institution can ensure the safety of children from online threats and violence,” said Louis-Georges Arsenault, Unicef India Representative.
“This calls for all relevant government institutions, the private sector, international organisations, media, academia and civil society to work together to build structures, mechanisms and capacities to prevent and respond to the specific threats and risks posed to children,” he added.
At the launch, representatives from key government institutions, national and international experts, academia and the civil society discussed the way forward for child online safety, including prevention and response to online violence and abuse.