Rapid growth of Internet and increased dangers of child abuse
Sri Lanka with a population of 21,283,913 (2011) had 2,503,194
Internet and 1,235,080 Face book users at the end of December 2011.
Surprisingly, these figures show how fast the modern technology and the
Internet have taken root and spread throughout the country. The last
decade had witnessed a rapid development and an astronomical increase in
the use of electronic and computer based communication, and sharing of
information through various media such as the Internet, mobile phones
and emailing, besides the print and the television.
There are, of course, both advantages and disadvantages in any
technological development intended to lift standards of life, but it is
not so marked as in computer and the Internet usage. There is adequate
evidence to show that the Internet is used as a medium to widen the
scope and increase the dangers of maltreatment of children by exposing
them to sexual, emotional and even physical abuse.
and paedophiles, through their networks, make use of this medium to its
utmost either to make money by making DVDs, videos and movies with
explicit sexual acts or meet their twisted and uncontrolled sexual urges
respectively. This technology has now spread globally into families,
schools and work places, making it revolutionary by any standard.
The Internet provide easy access to undesirable, offensive,
inappropriate materials and imagery to prepare innocent, unsuspecting
children to become easy prey to schemers who try to seduce, sexually
excite and drag them into their nets.
It is possible for the offenders to remain anonymous and make access
relatively easy under cover of false identities, making the child
believe that he/she is talking to another child, a trusted peer, a
friend or a caring parent figure and arrange a place to meet in reality
via chat rooms that have sprung like mushroom, and mobile phones now
It is not uncommon for sex offenders to target children who may have
experienced maltreatment previously in one way or another; emotionally
unstable children; kids who are crying out for love and care; those
unable to have friendly relationships with their peers, friends or
relatives; who have low self-esteem; those from broken or single-parent
families; who have respect, regard and love for caring adults; and those
who will give into rewards such as money, play materials and computer
Children do not normally disclose or report these solicitous
conversations or actions to their parents, teachers and relatives
through fear that they will lose those gifts and rewards offered to them
under cover of pretended love and care.
There is, no doubt, that the use of the Internet has tremendously
benefitted and supported children by facilitating social contacts,
making them improve their numeracy and literacy skills to become better
students. On the balance, the bad influences caused by the misuse of the
Internet, nevertheless, outweigh the benefits they have gained.
Studies have also shown that extended usage of the Internet, though
not particularly involved in pornography, may affect the health of those
who sit in front of computers and laptops for long periods and that they
are likely to develop depression and loneliness. This is precious time
lost which could be profitably used for face-to-face contacts with
friends, take part in sports and other social activities.
The ways and means of reducing or eliminating the negative influences
impacting on children, who are at various stages of development, have
been discussed over the years without arriving at any concrete and
tangible strategy mainly due to the complexity of the issue and the
influence exercised by foreign agencies and websites. But it is clear
that there is the need for parents, teachers, communities and
governments to act individually and/or collectively to deal with this
insidious and menacing issue.
Parents should act as a firewall between the children and the
Internet to protect kids from online predators. Children using the
Internet through computers, laptops and smart phones are at more risk of
being preyed on.
Parents need to understand the technology and have access to child’s
passwords for social network sites, understand the controls for sites
such as Face Book, go through child’s online friends and block friends
they do not know, check whether the Internet is being used appropriately
by their children and also prevent them sitting before the computers and
laptops continuously for long hours.
The greatest risks are, however, in the social networks, webcam
communities and children’s electronic games. They are directed at young
kids and are big targets for predators. Website Stickam and popular
online game sites - Moshi Monsters and RuneScape - are some of the sites
where kids are most vulnerable. Webcam communities have now become the
biggest issue since children, especially young girls, are using them to
communicate with ‘friends’ across the globe.
Social network sites
Internet providers are offering packages where parents stop access at
the server for certain sites. They can block pornography, violent sites,
games and social network sites. They can also have timer packages which
allow parents to control when their kids access certain sites such as
the Face Book and YouTube.
Children should never send their personal details or photographs to
'friends' they do not know nor arrange to meet online 'friends' in
person unless parents permit them to do so.
Teachers need to be alert and keep an eye on students to ensure that
they use the computers and laptops exclusively for school work and take
stern action if anyone offends to prevent a repetition of the offence.
Communities should also be watchful of spots where children gather
after school hours. If the people notice anything suspicious, they
should not hesitate to alert the Police.
More importantly, governments should tighten up the laws on websites,
both local and foreign, so that offensive materials and imagery, which
may fall into the category of pornography, do not flow through the
It may also be necessary for governments to explore the question of
restricting Internet services or to establish service standards in order
to reduce the presence of harmful material and behaviours online.
The dramatic growth of Internet usage is in itself a danger signal,
warning the authorities to put safeguards now in place before the
problem gets out of hand.