JIS News

The Internet, cyberspace, represents one of the greatest technological advancements of the 20th century and plays an important role in all aspects of life but most importantly communication, education, commerce and entertainment. It has radically changed global social interactions. Many of you have witnessed children sitting beside each other but communicating via texting, instant messaging or by e-mail. The larger the group, the more the children seem to have fun. Their fascination with the social networking websites such as Hi5, Facebook and MySpace is unabated. Videos, audios and text are exchanged in real time and have rapidly replaced the need for personal interface as we knew it a few years ago.
The gurus have upped the ante with the creation of virtual reality worlds such as Second Life and Teen Second Life. In these virtual reality worlds the user can escape his/her real life by creating a computer user’s representation of himself/herself or an alter ego. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialise, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another; or travel throughout the world, which residents refer to as the grid. Second Life caters for users aged over eighteen, while its sister site Teen Second Life is reserved for users aged between thirteen and seventeen. However, it is often difficult to validate the users’ real age.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reports that by early 2009, there were over 1.5 billion Internet users worldwide, and that more than 400 million of them had access to broadband. With over 600 million users in Asia, 130 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 50 million in Africa, the Internet is a growing common resource which is vastly increasing the dangers online, especially for children. Over 60 per cent of children and teenagers talk in chat rooms on a daily basis. Three of four children online are willing to share personal information about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services. Additionally, one in five children will be targeted by a predator or paedophile each year.
Therefore in spite of the merits of cyberspace, it provides opportunities for criminal activities to flourish and the electronic actions of the vulnerable can lead to stalking, theft and other crimes. The most serious is sexual molestation and exploitation of children who are lured from their homes because they have been befriended by unknown individuals on the internet. The onus is on the Government to establish a legal framework to protect our children and for parents to be more vigilant in monitoring their children’s use of the internet.
The Government of Jamaica is currently conducting ongoing reform to protect children in cyberspace. In this regard, the Ministry of Justice is developing a Cybercrimes Bill and a Child Pornography Bill. The objective of the Child Pornography Bill is to enact legislation to make the production, possession, importation, exportation and distribution of child pornography a criminal offence in Jamaica. The Cyber Crime Bill will provide criminal sanctions for the misuse of computer systems or data and the abuse of electronic means of completing transactions; and to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes.
Whilst the reform is underway, parents must take responsibility for educating their children about the dangers of the internet and also implementing mechanisms to protect them. The mechanisms should include: installing internet filtering software, warning children not to provide personal information to anyone online, having the internet enabled computer in the family or living room, installing anti-virus protection applications and active firewall applications. Parents should also watch for parcels arriving from unknown sources, because predators often send prepaid phone cards or cell phones to prospective victims.
Communication with the children is very important. Parents should talk openly to children about their activities on the internet, including any threats or solicitations. They should establish online time limits, guidelines for Internet use; and explain that parents reserve the right to monitor children’s activities at any time. Children should be encouraged to talk honestly without any fear of negative reaction or interaction from parents. They should also be encouraged to report any cyber bullying from their peers so that this can also be dealt with in the same way that one has to deal with a bully at school. The police should be contacted as soon as any predatory or cyber bullying is detected.

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