If this statistic, from a 2016 UNICEF poll conducted globally, doesn’t send a wake up call, then our children are already doomed.
“The poll findings show just how real the risk of online abuse is for girls and boys,” said Unicef’s associate director of child protection, Cornelius Williams. “Globally, one in three internet users I his a child.
“Although online violence and exploitation is a reality in the lives of children worldwide, many children do not have the necessary knowledge or resources to sufficiently protect themselves.
Children are at risk of cyberbullying, sextortion – in which victims are blackmailed by threatening to post explicit images of them on the internet, abduction – and online sexual abuse.
Only recently having become involved in the issue of child safety online, I have spent the last few days scouring the internet for information, statistics and trying to get a grasp of individual governments responses to the crises.
Some may argue crises is too strong a word. I suggest it doesn’t even begin to describe the calamity. We have given a loaded weapon to our children to play with. One so dangerous that even now we do not fully understand the ramifications.
Aside from stunting our children’s social skills and development by allowing them almost unfettered access to a digital nanny, we have allowed our view of the internet to become skewed. It is a tool, let’s be clear about that. One crafted for the free sharing of information, ideas and ideologies and a mass market place for people to sell things.
Go online and you are inundated with offers for apps, new social media platforms, software and a host of time and data sharing tools you simply cannot live without. Or so we are led to believe. As an adult I have the liberty of choosing my level of engagement with this medium and can decide just how far down the rabbit hole I would like to go.
Don’t confuse a computer or cellphone screen with a television. It’s easy to make the comparison. Your television only spews our government sanctioned content, the quality and content of which have to pass laws designed to protect children and adults alike against what that particular society has deemed undesirable.
Not so the internet. It is mostly an ungovernable medium, one of its strengths and possibly its greatest weakness. Having said this, as an adult user I can choose what I wish to view online and my liberal background can tolerate pretty much anything I come across. Closing a page or hitting backspace followed by a “what the fuck” moment solves the problem.
Our inquisitive natures have led us directly to this current level of technological wonder and for some, lead us over the edge into darker places, from which in most cases, there is no road back. We stay inquisitive into our adult years, but the peak of our curiosity is without a doubt our formative years. Any parent who has heard “why” once has heard it a million times.
Children do not have the benefit of filters that most adults develop over their lives. We are able to look at, identify and in most instances avoid content online that doesn’t fit in with our views of the world. Children have not had the opportunity to develop either the filters or views and are driven almost purely by curiosity. It’s the impulse to learn about the world around them and a healthy, natural state.
Place the average nine or ten year old in from of a computer or other digital device and their first thought is to explore. With adult supervision everything goes swimmingly well and the child masters the keys and the concept of the internet in the blink of an eye.
Fast forward two or three years and this almost teen is now trusted to explore the digital world on their own. I want you to very carefully consider my next statement and if you disagree please leave a comment below. If you don’t, please follow and share.
What you have just done with your children is drop them off at the worlds largest whorehouse/crackhouse and asked the pedophile at the door, dressed in an elf suit, to keep an eye on them.
“I’m sure they’ll be fine”, he says, giving the boy an affectionate pat on the head.
“You’ve taught them how to be safe, haven’t you?”
“We have a full day planned for our young guests”, he continues. “Our first stop is Madam Whoopsies web cam shop, filled with all the latest goodies for those close up and action shots. It’s all safe because you’ll be at home when you use them. “
He pauses and fishes in a pocket.
“Here kids”, he says, handing over two lollipops. “We call these Likes. There’s loads more where those came from. If you want any more”, winking at the boy, “just reach into my pocket”.
“I digress, back to the tour. One of most popular attractions here is the Pixiedust shop. Sample any of the goodies there and if you don’t see fairies, they’ll refund you. It’s actually for adults but you both look pretty grown up to me”.
The wink again.
“That leaves our last attraction, Adam and Eve. We call it that because it’s sort of religious. Everyone is naked, just like God made us. If you’re shy, just remember God never wanted us to wear clothes. So much fun… “
His eyes glaze over for a second.
“At the end of the day we can arrange a magical trip for you to other countries, filled with genies and magic lanterns, camels and loads of other wonderful things. It’s magical so you can be home by dinner and tell all your friends the next day. Just think how jealous they’ll be. So what do you say young ones, you ready?”
Your children eagerly grab his sweaty hands and disappear through the black door. You smile, wave them goodbye and head off to work. They’ll be fine.