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Cyprus

Online risks for children on the rise

By Angelos Anastasiou

THE number of online cases involving the exploitation of minors almost tripled between 2013 and 2014, Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumba told lawmakers on Monday.

Koursoumba was addressing the House Human Rights committee, which discussed the issue of the online environment and its impact on children.

According to police statistics, Koursoumba said, while 23 cases of exploitation of minors were reported in 2013, this year the number had risen to 60.

She said that although the internet should not be demonised, the dangers were real and increasing in tandem with children’s internet-use time.

She cited a 2010 European study, which indicated a daily average of 90 minutes of internet use by children.

“We must all be alert in order to protect our children from the dangers facing them,” she said. “Children can be approached by much older individuals who may present themselves as friends initially, before arranging to meet.”

Adding to such risks, Koursoumba listed exposure to pornography, requests to appear naked before a web-camera, cyber-bullying and others.

“Therefore, it is necessary for measures to be taken by the state in order to protect our children,” she repeated.

Koursoumba argued that the first leg of such measures relates to legislation, mentioning the recently voted bill against the sexual molestation of children, and the second relates to government programmes to educate parents.

“This means that parental education programmes need to be implemented,” she said. “Parents must themselves know what their children are up to, and how to protect them. They must certainly not stop them as internet use is their right, and a very positive tool.”

While some education programmes are currently available, she said, parents appear to be unaware of them for the most part.

Therefore, Koursoumba argued, further education is required.

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