An online safety awareness campaign is underway to promote safe social media use and combat online child abuse, particularly among girls and young women.

The month-long campaign was launched on October 7 by the Cambodia branch of Holland’s rights group Terra des Hommes (TdH) in collaboration with the AusCam Freedom Project – a women’s rights and anti-trafficking NGO – through the Safety for Children and their Rights Online (SCROL) project.

The SCROL initiative, funded by the charitable organisation Dutch Postcode Lottery (NPL), is a three-year project developed by TdH Netherlands and implemented in collaboration with local NGOs Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) and AusCam, with the aim of ensuring children remain free from online sexual exploitation.

The awareness campaign’s inaugural event was organised by students from Chamroeun Phal High School in Phnom Penh, where around 350 attendees, including school principals, teachers, parents and other officials, gathered to discuss the topic “Is using social media a cause of child abuse?”

“We encourage children to cultivate safe online habits, particularly regarding social media use,” stated Zoe De Melo, project manager at TdH Cambodia.

She highlighted the campaign’s importance in learning institutions, emphasising its role in increasing awareness of online sexual abuse.

Sek Socheat, co-founder of the Mindset Development Organisation and an IT specialist, voiced his support for the campaign. He noted the growing digital openness in Cambodian society, which spans all age groups, and underscored the importance of social media awareness.

“Certain opportunists misuse online platforms to infringe upon the rights of others, including children. It’s alarming to see students becoming prime targets for such malicious intentions.

“I call for sustained and expansive efforts to enlighten our youth, ensuring they are aware of online challenges, thereby equipping them to avert potential future issues,” he said.

Socheat also highlighted the responsibility of the government and pertinent entities in safeguarding the online experiences of children, particularly girls and young women. He metaphorically mentioned that young women in society are like bamboo shoots that grow into sturdy bamboo – indicating their pivotal role in the nation’s future.

The SCROL project is concurrently being implemented in three other countries: Nepal, Kenya and the Philippines.