Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Children gain opportunities but face risks in age of social media

Children gain opportunities but face risks in age of social media

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A lack of digital literacy among parents and caregivers impedes keeping children safe online. Hean Rangsey

Children gain opportunities but face risks in age of social media

A Children's Fund (Unicef) report on the use of social media by children and adolescents in East Asia says that although access to such sites provides children with big opportunities, it also exposes them to the growing risks that accompany the platforms.

The report, by Unicef’s East Asia and Pacific regional office and the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, compiled the views and experiences of 301 children aged 11 to 18 in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

The report also aimed to capture the perspective of children not usually covered in these types of studies – lower-income families, marginalised children, children with disabilities, children living on the streets and refugee children.

It hoped that looking at the risks of child sexual exploitation and abuse online can provide Unicef and its partners with pointers on how to protect children.

The report found that across the countries studied, three themes emerged – a lack of digital literacy among parents and caregivers, restrictive responses by adults to perceived misbehaviour in children’s social media use, and a lack of evidence-based approaches into what works in keeping children safe online.

Unicef East Asia and Pacific regional director Karin Hulshof said that “social media had provided children with huge opportunities, but it had also exposed them to risks and these risks are growing”.

“Denying them access to social media is not the answer to protecting children from risk and harm.

“We need to understand the risks children face online – how they use social media, how they perceive the risks they face and what steps, if any, they take to protect themselves.

“I am confident this report will contribute to shaping discussions and programmes on child online protection in the region and keeping children safe,” she said.

The snapshot study found that children in East Asia had adopted the same strategies seen throughout the world to protect themselves online.

This included keeping accounts and profiles private and blocking unsolicited messages and images from strangers who make them feel uncomfortable.

However, children have been found to accept chat and friend requests from strangers, particularly those claiming to be women, as they often do not view them as strangers in the online context.

They only block them when the conversation goes in a direction that the child does not like.

“Both boys and girls reported being sent and being asked for explicit pictures. Two out of five children in the focus groups reported having bad experiences they would not want to tell anyone about.

“More than half had met someone in real life that they had first met online, most in hope of forming a romantic relationship. In most cases, they did not report experiencing harm from the encounter, but disappointment instead,” the snapshot said.

The report made several recommendations for the family, school, community and service providers. This included improving support for digital parenting and parenting in a digital age.

The report advised that digital parenting should be integrated into evidence-based parenting programmes and should consider different levels of digital literacy among female and male caregivers, as well as differing levels of access to technology.

On February 11, Action Pour Les Enfants (Aple) joined forces with the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) and several ministries to promote a safer internet experience for the young, holding a Safer Internet, Social Morality and Family Values event which was attended by 600 children.

The organisation issued a statement saying that parent, caregivers and teachers should instruct children on how to use the internet safely.

They have to be provided with tools and knowledge to have a better choice and internet companies should try and help create a safer internet, it said.

The companies should exercise their responsibility to society by creating safer content, it added.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro