Strategies to reduce online violence against children

A recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) offers strategies to help end the growing scourge of online violence against children around the world.

Entitled “What works to prevent online violence against children”, the report focuses on ways to curb attempts to seduce young people via the Internet and the abuse of sexual images, as well as cyberbullying, cyberbullying, cyberstalking and hacking and identity theft.

The report also presents strategies and best practices to better protect children.

According to Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health at WHO, “our children are spending more and more time online; as such, it is our duty to secure the online environment”.

Educational programs

The report highlights the importance of implementing educational programs for children and parents to prevent online violence. Studies have shown their effectiveness in curbing aggressors and risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse.

Krug says, “This new document provides for the first time clear direction for governments, donors and other partners, showing that we must tackle violence online and offline together if we are to be effective.” .

The report recommends implementing educational programs in schools, promoting interaction between young people and involving parents.

It also stresses the importance of training young people in assertiveness, empathy, problem solving, managing emotions and seeking help.

The WHO points out that educational programs are most successful with multiple and varied delivery formats such as videos, games, posters, infographics and guided discussions.

The WHO says comprehensive forms of sex education can reduce physical and sexual assault – especially in online dating, reduce partner violence and tackle homophobic bullying. The effectiveness of sex education has been confirmed in all countries.

Improvements need to be made in several areas, according to the report.

Given the overlapping problems and solutions, more violence prevention programs are needed to address the problem, as well as offline violence prevention.

Since strangers are not the only or even the main offenders online, less emphasis should be placed on the danger of strangers.

Instead, more attention should be paid to acquaintances and peers, as they are responsible for the majority of offences.

Given that seeking romance and intimacy online are major sources of vulnerability, the report highlights the need to focus on healthy relationship skills.

From fostering learning, developing personal and professional skills, to expressing creativity, the Internet offers a lot to children and young people, the report points out. However, governments must strike the right balance between expanding digital opportunities and protecting users.

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