The Internet and especially Social Media has become an excellent medium of keeping people connected when they cannot connect physically and cannot travel. But, as we know, the internet has a dark side as well and it is especially dangerous and risky for the young and the uninitiated. The Internet is a place where children are groomed, coerced, deceived and sexually abused. Beyond the crime of the abuse, and the humiliation, is the crime of recording it. Beyond the abuse, humiliation and recording of it, is the crime of sharing it, then the viewing of it repeatedly by others who create the demand for more ‘material’ — more sexual abuse, more sharing.

This phenomenon of occurrence of online child sexual abuse and other online crimes against children viz. exposure to inappropriate or harmful content, contact with strangers leading to sexual solicitation, cyber aggression and cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and information security risks via the sharing of images and videos and personal details, have a greater propensity, when more children and young people are on the

Internet for work and entertainment during the lockdowns and stay at home, and are secluded from the larger community and are emotionally vulnerable. During these times the Internet is the only medium of communication with the outer world. This is a huge cause for worry during these trying times. Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation has become endemic. The number of domain names associated with child sexual abuse imagery is increasing, according to the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation 2018 Annual Report. In 2018 the IWF found 3,899 domain names with 105,047 URLs were used to host such content, a 3% increase on 2017’s 3,791. The 3,899 domains hosting child sexual abuse content were traced to 54 countries. Over the past decade the volume of images and videos of suspected child sexual abuse reported to the US National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has exploded from 450,000 files in 2004 to more than 45 million files in 2018. At the same time, the number of reports of URLs containing CSAM has increased from only 3,000 in 1998 to 18.4 million today.[ii] As the advancement in technology happens at a very rapid pace and the social preparedness does not match it, the instances of online abuse of children are growing exponentially.

Cybercrimes are increasing at a rapid rate. As per the National Crime Record Bureau Report, 2017, there was a jump of over 20 per cent in crime against children in a 2017. The cyber-crimes against children were related to cyber threats, online gaming, cyber pornography or hosting or publishing obscene sexual materials, cyber stalking or cyber bullying, defamation, or morphing and indecent representation of women, etc. In 2017, a total 11,601 persons were arrested for cybercrime cases, 8,306 were charge sheeted, and only 162 were convicted. As per a December 2017 Unicef report, one in three Internet users in the world is a child. The report, titled The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World, takes a comprehensive look at how technology is affecting children’s lives, identifying dangers, as well as opportunities. As per the study, Teens, Tweens and Technology Research, conducted by Intel Security in 2015, around 81% of Indian children aged eight to 16 years are active on social media networks, and about 22% of them are bullied online.

A recent study of Comparitech, which analysed an Ipsos international survey of 28 countries, has shown that Indian children are the most cyber-bullied in the world. Also the Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey conducted by Microsoft ranked India third in cyberbullying i.e. 53% of Indian children between 8 and 17 years have been bullied online. Online harassment is on the rise in India, with 8 out of 10 surveyed reporting to have encountered some form of online harassment, cyberbullying and cyberstalking, global cyber security firm Norton by Symantec in 2017. Reports of sexual harassment were highest by victims from Delhi and Mumbai (43 per cent) followed by Kolkata (37 per cent) and Bengaluru (36 per cent).



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