Our stand on Cybercrime against Children

The Internet is a space of freedom to express and communicate, to search for information and to learn, to work and to play. Access to the Internet thus offers great potential for children to exercise and enjoy their rights and values through the Internet. At the same time, threats such as cybercrime and the sexual exploitation and abuse of children through information and communication technologies pose particular challenges.

According to United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), online crimes against children generally refer to two main offence areas:

  • Making and downloading images of children being sexually abused (otherwise known as child pornography)
  • Approaching a minor online with the motivation of soliciting some sort of sexual act, which could occur both online (sexual activity via webcam or text) or offline (meeting up with a child to perform acts of a sexual nature)

However, cybercrime against children extend further than just sexual offences. According to CyberSecurity Malaysia, an agency under Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), cyber-bullying and identity theft are on a rampage since many children are online for an average about 19 hours per week. A Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission study in 2012 found that children below 15 formed 11 per cent of national home Internet users while those aged between 15 and 19 made up 8.6 per cent of the users.

It is difficult to assess the full extent of online crimes against children. The Virtual Global Taskforce has suggested that there are over 100,000 websites that carry images of child abuse and roughly 1 in 5 children who regularly use the internet has received some sort of unwelcome sexual solicitation. Britain’s leading newspaper The Telegraph recently reported that half of all child sexual exploitation cases took place on social networks. It said Britain’s National Crime Agency and Child Exploitation as well as Online Protection Centre Command's 2013 Threat Assessment on Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse report highlighted that 48.5 per cent of online child sexual exploitation cases received were linked to social networking sites.

In September 2013, in the United States, months of cyber abuse drove 12-year old Rebecca Sedwick to climb up the ladder of a pair of silos at an abandoned concrete plant and leap to her death. Similarly, in August, British teenager Hannah Smith took her own life after enduring months of online bullying.

Globally, efforts have been taken to protect children from cyberspace exploitation and crimes, with guidelines, laws and harsh penalties for offenders being evoked and enforced. In the United States, it is a crime to ask children using the Internet for their personal details or information that exposes them to risk. A task force headed by the deputy secretary general (strategic) of Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, Datuk Harjeet Singh had been formed to formulate guidelines to protect children from negative elements in the cyber world could not be more timely. Action plan should be implemented immediately before unfortunate cases like the Sedwick and Smith show up in Malaysia.

More on cybercrime against children:

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