Sébastien Marot, coordinator for Friends International awards a certificate to a representative of Netcast internet cafe during a ceremony at the Phnom Penh ChildSafe Center on September 8.
Internet cafés are the latest group to join "ChildSafe" - the two
year old Cambodian network whose goal is to involve businesses in protecting children
from all forms of abuse.
Certificates were awarded at a ceremony on September 8 to seven participating Internet
centers on completion of a course in how to assist young computer users to avoid
dangers on the web.
"The internet is playing a big role today in the sex industry," Sébastien
Marot, coordinator for Friends International, the parent NGO of ChildSafe, said at
the ceremony. "It is important to help young ones be aware of the dangers and
know how to protect themselves."
Marot said many industries can help child safety. Taxi drivers monitor the streets
for vulnerable, sick or abused youth; guesthouses report suspicious adults bringing
children into their rooms. He welcomed the seven Phnom Penh Internet cafes, saying
they can play a key role in advising young customers about Internet sex predators
or dangerous online pornography.
Since it began in 2005, ChildSafe has created a network of 436 hotel and guesthouse
employees, 326 tuk-tuk and motorcycle taxi drivers, tour companies, magazines and
websites who are cooperating to protect vulnerable children from abuse. The group
says it has "directly assisted" 174 children and helped to create a safer
environment for many others since it was launched.
Sim Or, director of the Sonthor Mok Internet chain, which has three locations in
Phnom Penh, said he sees increasing numbers of young customers getting involved in
dangerous online relationships, often making arrangements to meet the people alone.
He said sometimes the young people start out intending to look for online information
about contraception or sexual health, but instead get led to adult pornography sites.
In the training course particpants were shown potentially dangerous situations that
may come up in "online chatting." Risks such as giving out personal information
online or allowing access to personal photos that could be manipulated and used for
other purposes or arranging to meet someone met on line were brought up.
The training also mentioned the new Khmer language sexual health website, health
and love.org launched in July 2006. The so called Health and Love or "Dr Love"
website currently receives about 3,000 hits per month and an average 30 questions
a month submitted on line, said ChildSafes' online trainer Hem Vichet.
"Now I can give better advice to young people that come to use the internet,"
said Sim Or. "Maybe I can't always give the best advice, but at least now the
advice I have to give is much better.
Friends, also known as Mith Samlanh, first started working with street children in
Phnom Penh in 1994. They now run health and education projects. Among the services
they offer are drop in centers, an HIV program and vocational training in their own
restaurants and retail shops.