KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — During Child Month in May, the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) will commence the distribution of Internet safety guidelines for children.
The move is aimed at preventing the exploitation or abuse of children via the Internet.
Children's Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, says the guide, dubbed 'Be Social...Be Smart' “is putting power in the hands of parents” to protect their children.
She describes the document as easy to read, with tips for parents and children on how to identify and address potential dangers.
“It encourages the user to be sociable, while making them aware of the dangers that may arise with the use of the Internet and social media,” she points out.
The Children's Advocate informs that the guide has three primary sections, with part one dealing with the susceptibility of children to abuse; part two outlines the importance of online safety; and part three provides self-help tips, focussing on parents and children.
Citing a study conducted in the United States last year, she says 82 per cent of the predators use social media network websites to determine what their victims like, and dislike, to facilitate smooth encounters.
The findings, from the Washington DC-based Pew Research Centre, also showed that 65 per cent of online offenders used the victim's social networking site to gain information such as home and school address.
In addition, 13 per cent of second to third grade students (seven to eight years old) use the Internet to talk to people they do not know; and 11 per cent of them say that they were asked to describe private things about their bodies.
It was also noted that four out of 10 online sexual solicitors are under the age of 18, and 25 per cent of children give wrong information on their age in order to acquire online accounts.
Just over five per cent of teens admitted to have agreed to meet someone who they have only interacted with online.
“We do have cases in Jamaica where our teenagers, our girls, are having discussions with older persons online and they actively take steps to meet these persons,” Gordon Harrison states.
Between 2014 and 2015, the OCA received at least five reports per month that dealt with online solicitors, exposure, illicit pictures being shared with children, and children themselves sharing images of sexual activities over the Internet.
The Children's Advocate notes that during the summer of 2015, a troubling trend surfaced where children were “increasingly being featured in sexually perverse ways on social media platforms, mainly Facebook.”
“Children are increasingly mimicking (adult) behaviours, spreading and sharing videos, pictorial images, and other types of abuse of fellow children. We are seeing children as perpetrators,” she points out.
The OCA head is warning that under the Sexual Offences Act of 2010, individuals can be imprisoned for up to 15 years if they are caught in possession of videos, pictures and other images of children or other people being abused sexually, or presented in a compromising position.