Alarm­ing Trends On­line: Abuse of Chil­dren

Did you know that women are more than twice likely vic­tims of cy­ber­stalk­ing than men? How­ever, the more alarm­ing trend is that of chil­dren fac­ing the brunt of on­line abuse.

Distinguished Magazine - - CONTENTS - SURANGAMA GUHA ROY

Cy­ber abuse – a term that leaves us un­mis­tak­ably un­set­tled. An ex­ten­sion of stalk­ing as it takes place in the real, phys­i­cal world; cy­ber­stalk­ing is the per­sis­tent un­wanted ha­rass­ment, in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual ad­vances, threats or im­plied acts of vi­o­lence.

Did you know that women are more than twice likely vic­tims of cy­ber­stalk­ing than men? How­ever, the more alarm­ing trend is that of chil­dren fac­ing the brunt of on­line abuse.

Tech­nol­ogy in the twenty first cen­tury has wider ac­ces­si­bil­ity than ever be­fore; young kids and ado­les­cents thrive on the vir­tual world. The in­fi­nite mys­ter­ies of the web lure the younger age group more than any other, es­pe­cially when be­ing ac­tive on­line is fun and en­ter­tain­ing be­sides be­ing in­for­ma­tive. How­ever, de­spite the myr­iad, re­mark­able ben­e­fits of the in­ter­net, the cy­ber land­scape is filled with evil lurk­ing in ev­ery cor­ner of its deep, dark web. And un­for­tu­nately, it is the in­no­cent, un­in­formed chil­dren and young ado­les­cents who more of­ten than not fall prey to the ma­li­cious users of the net. tament to the speed of tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion that we’ve come so far along in a mere cen­tury.

Abuse and ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren on­line in­volve psy­cho­log­i­cal ma­nip­u­la­tion, bul­ly­ing and co­er­cion, groom­ing the child by gain­ing their trust and then lead­ing them on to re­spond to un­so­licited re­quests which are of­ten age-in­ap­pro­pri­ate. The worst part is that these per­pe­tra­tors take ad­van­tage of the naivety of the child, who is un­aware of what is and what is not rea­son­able, or ap­pro­pri­ate.

What does the young user of the net, a well-dis­posed adult like a par­ent or an older si­b­ling need to know about on­line crimes? Cy­ber crimes against young vic­tims are char­ac­ter­ized by the send­ing of threat­en­ing or abu­sive text mes­sages, shar­ing of in­ap­pro­pri­ate im­ages or videos, ‘trolling’, that is the send­ing of mes­sages on so­cial net­works, chat rooms or via on­line games that are meant to up­set and/or cre­ate fear, set­ting up of hate sites or groups for a par­tic­u­lar vic­tim, en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple to in­flict harm upon them­selves or oth­ers by black­mail­ing on invit­ing them to be part of a game, such as the Blue Whale game, cre­at­ing fake ac­counts or steal­ing iden­ti­ties to hu­mil­i­ate a young per­son, send­ing of ex­plicit mes­sages, forc­ing a child or a young per­son to send sex­ual im­ages or par­tic­i­pate in in­ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tiv­i­ties on live feed.

Groom­ing oc­curs when a ne­far­i­ous adult builds an emo­tional re­la­tion­ship with a child for the pur­pose of ma­nip­u­lat­ing them into abuse and traf­fick­ing of an in­ti­mate, in­de­cent na­ture. Chil­dren and young­sters can be groomed on­line by a fam­ily mem­ber, friend or a stranger. Groomers could be of any age, and could be­long to any gen­der. This be­comes very dif­fi­cult to trace on­line. Most young peo­ple are un­aware of the heinous na­ture of the re­quests that are made to them, and that they are be­ing ma­nip­u­lated.

Groomers can use so­cial me­dia plat­forms, in­stant mes­sag­ing apps or on­line chat­ting and gam­ing plat­forms to lo­cate their vic­tims on­line and con­nect with them. They can hack into the vic­tim’s ac­count or go through their so­cial net­work­ing pro­file to learn about their in­ter­ests which would in turn en­able them to build up a re­la­tion­ship. Groomers could eas­ily pre­tend to be an­other child or teenager and then lure them into be­com­ing ‘friends’ with them.

Groomers do not nec­es­sar­ily tar­get a spe­cific child. They could send bulk mes­sages to see who re­sponds.

The ma­jor chal­lenge with child abuse on­line, or any abuse for that mat­ter, is that it is wrong and il­le­gal on so many lev­els. Whether legally or morally, ex­ploit­ing, in­vok­ing fear, and mak­ing in­de­cent propo­si­tions are vi­o­la­tions of the hu­man code of con­duct. And when such abuse hap­pens via the in­ter­net, it be­comes in­fin­itely more dif­fi­cult to trace the per­pe­tra­tor, for the in­ter­net al­lows nu­mer­ous ways for dis­guis­ing one’s iden­tity, in­clud­ing iden­tity theft.

Across the world, ma­jor crime bu­reaus and na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions have taken up the cause of of­fences against chil­dren com­mit­ted on the in­ter­net. The Na­tional Crime Agency in the UK has blamed ma­jor tech gi­ants of the world for en­abling child ex­ploita­tion by fa­cil­i­tat­ing en­cryp­tion tech­niques and in­creas­ing anonymity on the net. The stag­ger­ing num­ber of on­line ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren in re­cent years has made it a need of the hour for plat­forms such as Mi­crosoft, Google, Twit­ter and Face­book to use their tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and re­sources to block the flow of in­ap­pro­pri­ate im­ages on their sites. A crack­down on the over­whelm­ing in­ci­dents of child abuse us­ing tech­nol­ogy can only be made pos­si­ble if there is a com­plete con­sen­sus and co­op­er­a­tion among all ma­jor tech­no­log­i­cal en­ter­prises in the world.

Re­search shows that 60% of porno­graphic ma­te­rial re­lated to child abuse is cir­cu­lated on the net from Europe. In North Amer­ica, in 2015, the rate of in­ap­pro­pri­ate videos and im­ages on­line in­volv­ing chil­dren rose to 57%. As far as ob­scene ma­te­rial with young vic­tims as sub­jects is con­cerned, The Nether­lands tops the chart. About 4.4 mil­lion im­ages and videos of child abuse were posted on­line in Europe in 2015 and 2016, while in 2017 that fig­ure went up to about 8.2 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­pol, in 2017, In­dia ac­counted for a shame­ful 2.4 mil­lion in­stances of on­line child abuse.

Cy­ber crimes in­volv­ing chil­dren is not lim­ited to groom­ing and in­ap­pro­pri­ate ad­vances, un­so­licited re­quests in­volv­ing in­de­cent videos and im­ages. The mas­sive growth and wide ac­ces­si­bil­ity of tech­nol­ogy has seen to the growth and rise of the traf­fick­ing in­dus­try where chil­dren are bought and sold on­line, and drawn into the live pornog­ra­phy in­dus­try via the in­ter­net.

With vi­o­lence and crimes per­me­at­ing our daily lives in the real world, it pains one no end to think of the var­i­ous new ways that our lit­tle ones can now be tar­geted and ex­ploited even when they are sit­ting in their own rooms, in front of a com­puter. The best way we can fight to keep our kids safe is to ed­u­cate them from an early age on the dark side of the in­ter­net and train them in ad­dress­ing such chal­lenges them­selves.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.