Other States

Figures on online child abuse unreliable: UNICEF

The Internet has revolutionised the way children access learning resources, socialise and entertain themselves, but despite these advantages there are challenges and threats that should not go ignored.

Addressing these issues, UNICEF India has come out with a Child Online Protection in India report, which offers a glimpse into the risks and threats children face when they use the internet and social media.

The report states that despite there being about 400 million Internet users in India, a majority of which are the youth, there are no reliable figures on the extent, patterns and trends of child online abuse and exploitation. This is because no comprehensive survey has been carried out.

The report also found that according to the Teens, Tweens and Technology Survey commissioned by Intel Securities in India in 2015, around 43 per cent of children active on social media claimed to have witnessed cruel behaviour on social networks, while 52 per cent indicated that they had themselves bullied people over social media.

‘Must work together’

The option to stay anonymous online and impersonate others also emboldens people into criminal acts and lower the deterrent potential of laws, says the report.

The report says that cyber crimes against children, which can manifest in many forms like sexting, online grooming, production and distribution of child pornography and cyber bullying, are under-reported and not included in the National Crime Records Bureau statistics as a separate category.

The report also stresses the importance of empowering parents, professionals and policy-makers to play an active role in preventing and protecting children from online abuse and exploitation.

“No single agency or government institution can ensure the safety of children from online threats and violence. This calls for all to work together,” said Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF India Representative.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, said that the ministry is taking steps to block sites depicting child abuse but child online safety requires collective effort from all stakeholders.