Keeping Children Safe In The Cyber Realm

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CYBERJAYA – In June, Malaysians had a rude awakening when a British paedophile Richard Huckle, 30, was sentenced to life in Britain for preying on vulnerable children in Kuala Lumpur.

Huckle who pleaded guilty to 71 counts of child sex offences had posted the picture of his victims on the website True Love Zone (TLZ). Even more shocking is that his youngest victim is believed to have been around six months old.

While he was mainly a real world predator, there are thousands more of his kind targetting at vulnerable children through the Internet.

Unfortunately most parents appear indifferent or throw caution to the wind when allowing their children to surf the Internet. Most believe there is nothing to worry thinking there is no physical danger for the fact the perpetrators are not physically present.

However, the facts speak otherwise. There are no less than 10,000 cyber crimes reported annually. Cyber bullying, online defamation, blackmailing, and cheating appear common with even some rapes and murders originating online.

Despite of this fact, much of the Malaysian society remains ignorant on the dangers and threats over the Internet sphere. The media reports regularly how Malaysians have been bullied or scammed easily online.

ESTABLISHING THE SAFETY NET

While there is no hard and fast rules in creating a safe and sound cyber environment for the children, self control by parents on the use and access to electronic content is vital.

Parents should take the trouble to filter the online content utilised by their children. This is also how parents will also get to know the type of content or the people that their children are connecting with over the cyber realm.

“Parents themselve have to get to know of the cyber world as children right from the primary school are exposed to the Internet, especially the social media,” said Mohd Mustaffa Fazil Mohd Abdan, the executive director of the Communications And Multimedia Forum of Malaysia (CMFC).

“Have to look into carefully…if the children are playing game, parents should take note of the game they are playing. Don’t just hand over the new phone to them and just forget about it. Give the phone to them but check on the Internet access,” he added.

Everyone should take note that the virtual world is infinite and enables users to access and spread contents that may not be appropriate, insensitive or could endanger the user and others.

“This is how unsubstantiated incidents or stories go viral in the social media. Children are easily drawn by what they hear or see,” he said adding that some of those viral material going around the net are old stories or incidents.

The things that they see over the net could influence them negatively as well. For example if student bullying cases are exemplified through Youtube, Whatsapp and other mediums, it could encourage violent behaviour.

“Teach the children not to viral something that they are not sure of its authenticty and tell them that action could be taken on them for doing so,” added Mohd Mustaffa Fazil.

MONITOR YOUR CHILDREN’S VIRTUAL ACTIVITIES

“Social media and interactions like “chatting” exposes the innocent children to predators and peril,” he said.

“Our children could communicate in English and this enables them to communicate with faraway strangers online. Starting with conversation things can go further.

“That is why parents have to monitor what their children have been doing on Whatsapp and other social media sites, including the things they have been posting,” said Mohd Mustaffa Fazil.

The other thing that the parents could do to rein in their children in the cyber realm is to take note of the web pages and e-mail addresses of strangers trying to get close to their children.

Record the chat room’s URL, the date and time the person contacted the child , these are the useful details in the event there is a neccesity to make a police report or report to CMCF, he said.

While it is next to impossible to monitor the children’s each and every activity and interaction over the virtual world, there are certain things that parents and guardians could still do.

One of the things that they should contemplate is move the wifi router to the hall. Do not allow the children to use the laptops or computers in the room without being monitored.

Parents should make the children aware of the dangers awaiting them online – threats, scorn including cyber bullying and etc.

Lack of parental oversight is a serious concern. Whatmore parents are increasingly preoccupied with the daily grind. Problems arise when parents do not spend enough time with their children.

THE DANGERS POSED BY SOCIAL MEDIA SITES

Another danger that parents are often oblivious to is allowing their children to have their own social media accounts, like Facebook and Instagram accounts. It is only advisable for them to open an account when they reach adolcesence, say about 12 years of age.

According to Mohd Mustaffa Fazil, in the event parents were the ones to open the account for their children who were still very young, they have to monitor the ongoings in their children’s account and befriend their children through the account.

“Nowadays, children as young as 3 to 4 years of age could already access Youtube, play games. Hence, parents or guardians have to execise extra caution and advise their children on the contents that they should and should not follow ,” he said.

As more social networks like Whatsapp, Line, WeChat and others appear with the passage of time, and more children go online, the dangers and threats will always be there. Parent control is what will keep the children safe. – BERNAMA

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