‘Street-proof’ youth for Internet: UNICEF

National 2 minutes, 18 seconds


POLICING or restricting the Internet will not address the roots of online exploitation of children, said a representative from UNICEF, but youth need to be “street-proofed” against the risks of Internet use.

Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF’s representative to Malaysia and Brunei, said parents and schools play a vital role in making children aware of the dangers associated with Internet use, such as “sexual grooming”, child pornography and being lured into acting as drug mules.

“Brunei is very concerned about the Internet and the impact of the Internet on young people, this is one of the emerging issues we are facing,” Belmonte told _The Brunei Times _in a recent interview.

“The discussions we’ve had with the government centre around how do you harness the talent, ideas, and innovation that the Internet helps create while mitigating the harmful things.”

Belmonte was recently in Brunei to review the country’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“You don’t lock a child in a house in order to street-proof them. You make them aware of the dangers and then you cope with the dangers,” she said.

“Our approach for the Internet is the same. You don’t shut down the Internet or lock the computers away or take mobile phones away, you figure out how to street-proof kids on the Internet highway.”

Belmonte added that the government is advocating regional measures to prevent online exploitation of children, particularly through the ASEAN platform.

“Brunei has been very insistent in ASEAN to have this discussion,” she said.

Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) statistics for 2012 showed that 60 per cent of victims of sexual abuse and rape met their attackers online, and 82 per cent of these victims were children under 16.

The Attorney General’s Chambers has been conducting an ongoing awareness campaign to educate schoolchildren about the negative impact of Internet use, discussing trends such as cyber-bullying, drug syndicates luring potential drug mules, and the spread of false information through social media.

Over 5,000 students across the country have attended such talks conducted by AGC officers.

Last year, Brunei also introduced the “Child Online Protection Framework” to safeguard the safety of young persons.

The COP framework contains several components, including capacity-building and awareness-raising; legal measures; and implementation and international cooperation.

The government has also amended the Penal Code to criminalise “sexual grooming”, a term used to describe how online predators prowl the web for the purpose of engaging in sex with a minor.

Sterner penalties were also introduced for outraging modesty, child pornography, voyeuristic acts and commercial sex with a minor.

Among other measures, RBPF has adopted digital forensics to investigate cyber crimes and the Ministry of Education is incorporating cyber security awareness into the school curriculum.

The Brunei Times