had to keep my fingers crossed whether this, the article can actually bring about a change for better for children.
A report released by UNICEF recently, titled Keeping children safe and empowered online: A study on Sri Lanka’s digital landscape, indicated that 46.3% of some 5,000 children polled had communicated with strangers online, over 15% shared their private information with strangers, while 28% had met them in person, 18.3% of whom had done so without informing family or friends.
The report indicated that around 27.9% of children online had physically met people that they had first met online. Another 25.2% of online-IT users anticipated meeting in person in the future.
This user group was composed of more boys than girls.
Although the study did not probe deeper into the ages of those individuals that the children had met up with, most of those, who reported having met someone indicated that these people fell into the category of someone they had befriended, or someone related to a job offer or social activity, like a club or organization, rather than a person for a prospective romantic relationship of the children, who had physically met online-strangers, 18.3% boys and girls had done so without informing anyone, and another 36.3% had only informed a friend, underscoring the degree of risk these user children were being exposed to.
According to the report, a substantial proportion of children with interest access are engaged in what it calls risky behaviour. Exacerbating this is an alarming lack of awareness with respect to privacy.
Nearly one in four boys and one in three girls were not at all aware of privacy settings for their online accounts. Around, 8% does not know how to change privacy settings.
"Though this study did not look into the type of strangers that children interacted with or the nature of their interactions, these types of behaviour can expose children to sexual predators or harmful online communities"
However, there was another group of online-users, 32.2% of boys and 33.1% of girls, who were aware of privacy settings, but did not want to set them up. All these children are exposed to potential online threats.
One in ten children (A considerably higher percentage of boys) admitted that they had sent/uploaded content inappropriate for their age, which included photos and videos.
The proportion of such children increased slightly from Grades 6-9 to the advanced level, but the percentage of girls remained low throughout (about 3%).
Forty per cent of the online children polled has admitted to sharing photos including personal photos as well as personal information with strangers, in addition to accepting chat requests from people they but not encounter before.
“Though this study did not look into the type of strangers that children interacted with, or the nature of their interactions, these types of behaviour can expose children to sexual predators or harmful online communities.
“These interactions captured above could have been between children or adults, but this was not verified in this research. Furthermore, children admitted to sharing their own photos with strangers.
These findings are in line with the harmful and often illegal online activities described in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) guideline,” said the report.
The study also reveals that some children have a tendency to engage in unethical behaviour online.
“Nearly a quarter of online IT users admitted to inappropriate conduct such as lying, sharing false information, sending messages that could hurt someone else, or admitted to using others passwords to log into their accounts. Such activities constituted unethical and unlawful behaviour.”
Among the 11-18 year age group, 67.6% of the boys polled were online, while only 33.1% of girls had access to the internet. Regional variances, as highlighted in the report, show that 67.8% of respondents from urban areas were online users, compared to 47.1% from rural locations and just 39.3% from plantation areas.
"Children are an invaluable asset to a nation, unfortunately, the incidents referred to above demonstrate that we are unable to protect that asset. The beautiful world of the child is enveloped by dark clouds created by strangers"
A majority of children are getting online without adult supervision. According to the study, 53.6% of child internet users were ‘self-taught’ about the internet, compared to the 16.5% who had been taught by their parents.
With an estimated 6.7 million internet users in Sri Lanka in 2018 representing 32% of the total population, a rise from 4 million in 2015, internet usage is growing across all age groups.
Yet, whilst 28.3% of people in Sri Lanka are Computer Literate, this differs substantially by age, rising to 60.7% of 15-19-year-olds compared to just 19.9% of 40-49-year-olds.
This represents a rise in over-all computer literacy, across all age groups since the report data was collected in 2015.”
Children are an invaluable asset to a nation, unfortunately, the incidents referred to above demonstrate that we are unable to protect that asset. The beautiful world of the child is enveloped by dark clouds created by strangers.