A lot has often been said about protecting children from sexual abuse. There have been many articles on “Good Touch and Bad Touch” and teaching children to differentiate between the two. Plenty has been said about how to look out for signs of sexual abuse in children and the steps to be taken thereafter.
These are very valuable snippets of information in a world that is getting increasingly horrifying, truth be told. However, with children being increasingly exposed to electronic means of information, with children turning increasingly towards devices as means of entertainment and information, there is a definite need for parents to be more vigilant against Cyber or Internet Sexual Abuse of children too.
During our childhood days, we did not know what a computer was. Compare that with the children of today. They simply cannot do without one. Right from a very tender age, children are used to electronic gadgets which give them access to this vast world web. They browse, they play games online and apart from all this, the internet is now increasingly being used as a medium of instruction. The internet is being used to “teach” and children are using the internet more frequently for “education related” activities. Projects, research work, online learning, online exams – the internet has manifested itself in almost every sphere of a child’s life. Chat forums, online groups, social networking and much more have virtually become the order of the day.
Yet again, the onus does, to a great extent fall on the parents to be extra vigilant when children go online. What makes it difficult even more so is the fact that one cannot police the children every moment they are on the internet. That does not make sense – from any angle. Children of today need their freedom too. They need space to explore their thoughts, they need to network as networking has proven to be an extremely valuable social tool. At the same time, they need to be protected against cyber sexual abuse. Talk about balancing options and priorities !!!
There were days when parents used to rest assured and bask in the security of the fact that they had installed software on their computers which monitored the sites which the children visited, software which blocked pornographic or graphic content, software which “protected” the children, safe searches turned on so that an innocuous request for an image by a child would not lead to porn pictures being thrown up over the net. I do believe that sense of security is on its way down too. There are porn sites which piggyback onto “educational” sites, there are pop-ups that flash across the screen when least expected. Put these together with the natural curiosity and innocence of children – strain your ears, it won’t be long before you hear the bomb ticking away. More so the case with social networks and chat forums. Those are minefields. Those are ideal places for predators to prey upon young and innocent minds, perfect grounds for predators to gratify their demented urges by finding young quarries and victims.
We, as human beings, are vulnerable. Being vulnerable to assault or abuse of any kind is a possibility that is very real. What makes children more vulnerable is the fact that children have in them a large amount of innocence and this makes them more gullible to deception and abuse.
Like with other forms of abuse, the important thing with internet sexual abuse too is the same – children have to be informed and educated about the dangers that lurk on the web too. It is a vast place, with lot of rich knowledge stored and there for the taking but as always, where there is an upside, there is also a downside.
While children should be able to explore and make use of the rich information and knowledge that the internet has to offer, as parents it is our duty to inform, educate and alert them to the hazards that prowl and lie in wait, on the internet too. It is important to teach children to recognize deceptive behaviour from people who mean them harm. Also equally important is letting children know, verbally and in absolutely unequivocal terms that if something happens on the internet – something that they are not comfortable with – they can and should always seek parental help.
Sir Francis Bacon once said “Knowledge is power”.
I’m sure he meant that under different circumstances and meant for that quote to be understood in terms of book knowledge. But in this world of today, that quote does take on a totally different connotation.
In this case, it is equipping children with the kind of knowledge that empowers them to say NO, when circumstances so warrant it.
Gauri Venkitaraman dons many hats – a wife, a mom, a teacher and many more. Working as a full-time English teacher in HongKong, Gauri also raises and nurtures two terrors, affectionately known as The Nutty Siblings a.k.a Macadamia, a teen and Pecan, the ten-year old who behaves like he is fifteen. Gauri’s family means the world to her. Life is a lively roller coaster ride and we, as a family, aim to enjoy the ride together. http://tiny-tidbits.blogspot.hk/ is where Gauri pens down her thoughts and musings, in an attempt to preserve memories for posterity