Parents urged to safeguard children against paedophiles on social media

Parents urged to safeguard children against paedophiles on social media

PETALING JAYA - With paedophiles widely reported to be using the Internet, women groups are asking parents to monitor their children's social media interaction regularly to ensure that they are safe from predators.

Voice of Children president Sharmila Sekaran said parents should ensure they were up to speed with the technology so they could spot potential dangers.

"You may think that a paedophile looks suspicious, but the fact is that most paedophiles have an outward appearance resembling a friendly neighbour.

"Also, if your child is giving personal information to an online person unknown to you, make sure to look into it," she said.

Sharmila said parents should be alert when there is little information about their children's "online friends", as paedophiles do not reveal their true nature on social media.

Paedophiles also tend to use acronyms to communicate inappropriate requests so that most adults will not be able to spot these when going through the messages.

CNN had published a list of such acronyms for parents to look out for, which includes terms like GNOC (get naked on camera) and CU46 (see you for sex).

Women's Aid Organisation communication officer Kristine Yap said:

"Parents should be aware of their children's social media activities, but they must monitor respectfully and always be vigilant for signs of unfamiliar interaction.

"At the end of the day, what you need is for your child to recognise signs of a potential predator and for the child to feel able to come to you for help," she said.

Last Friday, a 31-year-old Malaysian quality assurance engineer in Singapore admitted to preying on 31 children aged between 11 and 15 over three years.

The man had befriended the boys on Facebook using different personas, chatted with them on the social networking site and later persuaded them to meet him.

Meanwhile, Sharmila and Yap both believed that parents should be more involved in their children's lives, and get them to speak out about the happenings in their lives.

"These days, parents think nothing of getting their children electronic gadgets. Perhaps they think these elevate their social status, but they also expose the children to a lot of unnecessary attention," said Sharmila.

"Social media is easily accessible and children are going to engage, so parents need to be their children's safe harbour, and mutual trust will ensure this," said Yap.

Sisters in Islam communications officer Aliah Ali, however, said monitoring children's activity online only worked to a certain extent.

"The best way to protect our children from online predators is to provide comprehensive sex education, which should include information on statutory rape, the power of imbalance between an adult and a child and to learn how to recognise predators.

"By doing this, we are also equipping them with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their own conduct," she said.

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