Based on a poll and youth talks held in more than 160 countries, including Cambodia, 85.7 per cent of young Cambodians aged between 15 and 25 years are in danger of online violence, cyberbullying and digital harassment, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) said.
And while Unicef regarded the problem as “terrible” and called for concerted action to tackle and prevent violence against children and young people online, Cambodian officials questioned the poll’s reliability and methodology in carrying out the study.
The Unicef results were issued in a press release based on a recent five-week poll of one million young people and suggestions from a series of student-led #ENDviolence Youth Talks held around the world.
Natascha Paddison, the acting Unicef director in Cambodia, said that 30 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the creation of the World Wide Web, it is time for governments, families, academia and, critically, the private sector to put children and young people at the centre of digital policies.
“By protecting them from the worst that the Internet has to offer and expanding access to its best, we can each help tip the balance in the interest of children and youths,” she said.
Unicef said victims of cyberbullying are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and skip school than other students. They also are more likely to receive poor grades and experience low self-esteem and health problems. In extreme situations, cyber-bullying has led to suicide.
However, Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) spokesman Im Vutha told The Post on Tuesday that there are mechanisms to facilitate internet use in the Kingdom.
“The Internet does not affect society. If in Unicef’s evaluation, internet usage causes [dangers], then we should look at the social etiquette of the users. Since it involves youths, we have to see how youths face dangers in using the internet.
“Is it through the posting of wrong information? Through the availability of pornography? What exactly does it involve?” he questioned.
Clarifying its press release, Unicef Cambodia communications chief Meas Bunly said online violence, cyberbullying and digital harassment are made through posting bad messages, pornography or threats on the internet that affect the users.
But in totally rejecting the Unicef report, Ministry of Information spokesman Phos Sovann said it was hard to believe as the reliability of the poll was questionable.
He said civil society organisations usually announced their findings without explaining the procedures that were followed or the standards used in a particular study.
“Even if the findings are reliable, we do not know the methodology used in their research. This is important for the relevant ministries to carry out further studies and to draw up policies to protect children and youth in accordance with the laws and actual situation of Cambodia,” he said.
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport spokesman Ros Soveacha said currently the world is facing dangers through some of the information available on the internet. Hence, he said it is important to work together to ensure that such information does not affect children and youths in Cambodia.
“The Ministry of Education has joined in to prohibit and reduce the negative aspects of using the internet by making study programmes and other positive information available online,” he said.