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Workshop to raise awareness regarding child abuse online

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Boys play games on a phone at home in Kohdach commune, Chroy Changvar district in July. Hong Menea

Workshop to raise awareness regarding child abuse online

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport will hold a five-day workshop on the topic of “online sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia” next week to raise awareness of the risks the internet poses to children.

The awareness workshop will be held from August 23-27 and will be conducted in cooperation with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and other relevant public and private institutions.

Education ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha told The Post on August 16 that the workshop will run every morning during the five day from 9am to 10:30am via video confence and will be broadcast live on the ministry’s Facebook page.

“The purpose of this workshop is to raise awareness about the risk of online sexual exploitation of children, especially small children, and to help them avoid online harassment and abuse,” he said.

According Soveacha, the workshop will be attended by 500 participants, including school board members, teachers and parents or guardians of students.

NGOs and the private sector will also take part, including UNICEF, APLE Cambodia, Facebook and internet service provider EZECOM.

Soveacha said that each day of the workshop has a different theme: August 23 will be “risks of online sexual exploitation of children”, the August 24 theme is “action plan to prevent and respond to child sexual exploitation online”, August 25 will be “protecting children online in the education sector”, and the theme for August 26 will be “private sector participation in the protection of children online”.

The last day will be August 27 and it will include a wrap-up discussion and a closing ceremony.

APLE child protection specialist Khoem Vando said that the workshop was very important because technology is rapidly evolving and becoming more integrated with our lives, but it can come with problems and risks, especially for children.

“This aims to raise awareness and call for the participation of all stakeholders, including parents of children and the public so that they do not engage in any online activities that pose a risk to themselves, other children or other users. Everything most people do online is now tracked through social media in order to target you with advertising,” he said.

Vando noted that with the schools having been suspended for a long time now, students across the country then turned to online learning. This also brought an increase in the number of offenders taking an opportunity to seduce, cheat, harass or abuse more children online than ever before.

He said from January through July, his organisation had found more than 116 cases of online and direct child sexual exploitation, whereas in 2020 they saw 50 cases.

Nhep Sopheap, secretary-general of the Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC), told The Post that during the Covid-19 outbreak more child sexual exploitation online was increasing steadily in all parts of the world.

She said new research found that every five minutes child pornography is shared online somewhere globally and Cambodia has had a surge in internet use by children in recent years.

Yi Kim Than, the acting country director for Plan International Cambodia said that child abuse or exploitation online was important because of the enormous amount of time that children today spend online via smart phones.

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