OCA to Distribute Internet Safety Guidelines in May

Photo: Contributed Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison.

Story Highlights

  • During Child Month in May, the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) will commence the distribution of Internet safety guidelines for children.
  • Between 2014 and 2015, the OCA received at least five reports per month that dealt with online solicitors, exposure, illicit pictures being shared with children, and children themselves sharing images of sexual activities over the Internet.
  • She notes further that when a child becomes “overly attached and unusually upset” when the Internet is interrupted, this is not normal behaviour, and it should raise a red flag for prompt investigation by parents.

During Child Month in May, the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) will commence the distribution of Internet safety guidelines for children.

The move is aimed at preventing the exploitation or abuse of children via the Internet.

Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, says the guide dubbed: ‘Be Social…Be Smart’ “is putting power in the hands of parents” to protect their children.

She describes the document as easy to read, with tips for parents and children on how to identify and address potential dangers.

“It encourages the user to be sociable, while making them aware of the dangers that may arise with the use of the Internet and social media,” she points out.

The Children’s Advocate informs that the guide has three primary sections, with part one dealing with the susceptibility of children to abuse; part two outlines the importance of online safety; and part three provides self-help tips, focusing on parents and children.

Citing a study conducted in the United States last year, she says 82 percent of the predators use social media network websites to determine what their victims like and dislike in order to facilitate a smooth encounter.

The findings, from the Washington DC-based Pew Research Centre, also showed that 65 percent of online offenders used the victim’s social networking site to gain information such as home and school address.

In addition, 13 percent of second to third grade students (seven to eight years old) use the Internet to talk to people they do not know; and 11 percent of them say that they were asked to describe private things about their bodies.

 

It was also noted that four out of 10 online sexual solicitors are under the age of 18, and 25 percent of children give wrong information on their age in order to acquire online accounts.

Just over five percent of teens admitted to have agreed to meet someone who they have only interacted with online. “We do have cases in Jamaica where our teenagers, our girls, are having discussions with older persons online and they actively take steps to meet these persons,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison states.

Between 2014 and 2015, the OCA received at least five reports per month that dealt with online solicitors, exposure, illicit pictures being shared with children, and children themselves sharing images of sexual activities over the Internet.

The Children’s Advocate notes that during the summer of 2015, a troubling trend surfaced where children were “increasingly being featured in sexually perverse ways on social media platforms, mainly Facebook.”

“Children are increasingly mimicking (adult) behaviours, spreading and sharing videos, pictorial images, and other types of abuse of fellow children. We are seeing children as perpetrators,” she points out.

The OCA head is warning that under the Sexual Offences Act of 2010, persons can be imprisoned for up to 15 years if they are caught in possession of videos, pictures and other images of children or other persons being abused sexually, or presented in a compromising position.

“Under Section 9, there is an offence called sexual grooming of a child. This occurs when any adult uses any means, including social media, to have that type of discussion with a child on at least two occasions, and then proceeds to take steps to meet the child to engage in some sexually explicit activity,” she explains.

 

The Children’s Advocate says it is important that girls are discouraged from sending nude images of themselves, even to persons, who they are close to “because, when relations get bad, in many instances the pictures are used to humiliate.”

She also calls for boys not to play games on the Internet with persons, whom they do not know.

For parents, she advises them to monitor the use of computers and smartphones in order to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content.

“If your child quickly changes the screen, or turns off the monitor when you happen to come into the room, it is likely that he or she is viewing something that they don’t want you to see,” Mrs. Diahann Gordon Harrison says.

She notes further that when a child becomes “overly attached and unusually upset” when the Internet is interrupted, this is not normal behaviour, and it should raise a red flag for prompt investigation by parents.

Mrs. Gordon Harrison also advises parents to surf the Internet, and participate on social media platforms with their children.

“Try as best as possible to be aufait with all the sites and the programmes and games that your children engage in online,” the Children’s Advocate says.

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