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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Protecting their innocence

What can we do to keep children safe?

Update : 03 Mar 2019, 12:03 AM

The word “childhood” is very close to our heart. Nostalgia surrounds us with memories when we hear the word. Children are indeed a very important part of society and of course, they are our future. Children are the symbol of innocence, and though they are a vital part of the future of our society, their future is at stake due to a number of reasons. Child sexual exploitation is one of them. 

It is observed that the misuse of the internet is very closely related to child sexual exploitation. In this era, where it is crucial for us to have access to information technology, we need to learn about the safe use of such means. According to Bangladesh Shishu Odhikar Forum, 234 children have been victims of rape all over the country in a four-month period -- a matter that needs attention from all sides of our nation.

This nation’s children are growing up without comprehensive sexual education. Without proper knowledge, they are even more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. 

The internet is a wonderful invention, and our children are increasing their knowledge and creativity, and are exploring themselves through the internet. To realize the importance of information technology, the Bangladesh government has added a distinct subject entitled “Information Technology” in secondary and higher secondary levels. 

We can already see the benefits of this additional subject, but we have some limitations in formulating the content of the information technology textbook. There is a need to add a separate chapter about the safe use of the internet, and the dangers residing it.  The internet has its pros and cons; many a time we have seen children becoming more and more engrossed in social media -- becoming addicted to the virtual world. Meeting new unknown people on a social media platform, gradually becoming close to them -- sometimes leading them to spend their time sexting their Facebook friends, sharing pictures and videos without fully understanding how much information can be leaked once a friendship goes stale. 

We have seen many cases where one’s audio, video, pictures, and screenshots are being spread out via the internet. Nowadays, some perverts are even collecting videos and pictures to sell on porn websites. As a result, children and their families are losing social dignity and are being psychologically and economically abused.

A child can have curiosities -- they are only on the verge of learning and discovering new things, but sometimes this curiosity and lack of knowledge about sex can lead to an unhealthy fixation with pornography -- which is easily accessed through the internet. 

These types of incidents are the most dangerous for a child’s future. According to the media witness, we see that online child sexual exploitation is gradually increasing all over the country. Although a lot of incidents are happening behind the screen. In our society, we sometimes like to believe that boys are never sexually abused, but the reality is that both boys and girls are sexually abused. Every day, children are losing their childhood due to sexual exploitation. 

In many cases, children can’t understand and can’t express the unbearable situation which is happening to them, and as a result, the culprits are slipping out of the hands of the law as well as people eyes. It may be true that parents know almost everything about their children, but in reality, some parents are not at all aware of what is happening to their children.

Families and schools should be alert about the safety of children, and take appropriate action to prevent such incidents. And in the case of such incidents, the victim must be offered psychosocial support. The government should encourage the safe use of the internet in textbooks at the secondary level, and the relevant law must be strictly enforced. 

To make the internet safe -- we need to reinforce parent control systems, and provide a separate login and password if needed. This way, parents can track the activity of their children, educate children on the ways to secure their personal information while opening a social media account, and make sure they are fully aware of hackers spreading malware.

It is important to teach children to value themselves, and in turn, not risk being blackmailed or bullied by others.

Our society is not yet sensitive about child safety. Every day, every moment, a death trap is being created for them. Therefore, it is necessary to eliminate indifference in ensuring child safety and a better childhood. Alongside economic liberalization, people should develop the path of human development, and for this, it is necessary to strengthen family and social bonds. Protecting our children is a duty for all of us. 

Debbrata Adhikary is a child rights activist. 

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