The pandemic has emphasized how important the internet is, not only for work and business but also for personal, everyday needs like shopping, banking, medical consultations, and education for our children.
The need for speedy, reliable and affordable internet connection remains an issue to be addressed by the government in tandem with the private sector. Indeed, building a digital infrastructure is a must if we are to recover economically, and achieve sustainable growth.
But these conveniences have their downside, and this is something that must be addressed not only by our government leaders but by families, schools, and communities as well.
Criminals have been upgrading their skills as well to keep up with technology. We have heard about hacking incidents or phishing attacks that have led to fraud, causing internet users to lose their hard-earned income, savings or investments.
But a greater evil comes with the abuse and exploitation of children online. This has also proliferated as more workers found themselves out of work and locked down in their homes as a result of the pandemic.
Yesterday’s Safer Internet Day reminds us that despite the benefits and conveniences that connectivity brings, it could also expose children to sexual abuse and exploitation even if they are within the “safe” confines of home.
It is wrong to believe that no real harm could come to children online if they are simply in front of a computer screen. We have been horrified to learn that in some instances, family members themselves do this harm to their children in exchange for monetary rewards. But it happens – out of greed, desperation and ignorance.
Laws protecting children from this kind of abuse do exist, but so do laws protecting the privacy and identities of internet users who do commit these abominable acts online. The fact that there are more channels than ever for remitting money makes it doubly difficult to track suspicious activities.
A parallel effort is direly needed to educate children and their parents on online abuse and exploitation. Such experiences cause lifelong damage to the children’s psychological well-being.
The internet brings many advantages and conveniences, but it could be a sinister place, especially for our children, if we allow it to be.