Nearly 33 per cent of the 424 parents who took part in a survey reported that their children were approached by strangers via online platforms soliciting friendships, seeking personal and family details and broaching up sexual advice, according to a new report.
Apart from the 424 parents from Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, the participants also included 384 teachers from the four states and 107 other stakeholders from three states (West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra).
According to the parents, of the children indicating cases of online solicitations and abuse, 40 per cent were adolescent girls within 14-18 years, closely followed by adolescent boys (33 per cent) within the same age group.
For the parents who had shared that their children have indicated experiences of online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA), responses were received more from rural areas than urban areas, with both male and female respondents accounting for such incidents.
The study was jointly conducted by CRY (Child Rights and You) and the Chanakya National Law University (CNLU), Patna.
It revealed that one-third (33.2 per cent) of the parents among the respondents reported that their ward was approached by strangers via online platforms soliciting friendships, fishing for personal and family details and broaching up sexual advice concerning relationships. Inappropriate sexual contents were also shared with the children and they indulged in sexual conversations online, they said.
On being asked what measures they would like to take if their children faced OCSEA, only 30 per cent of the parents stated that they would go to the police station and file complaint, while a “worrying 70 per cent discarded the option.”
Further, only 16 per cent of parents reported of being aware of any legislation relating to OCSEA. These findings indicated a huge information deficit and low trust with the legal and law enforcement institutions among the parents, the report said.
The most common behavioural changes noticed among children by the teachers were absent-mindedness and unjustified absence from school (both 26 per cent), followed by increased usage of smartphones in school (20.9 per cent).
Soha Moitra, Director of Development Support at CRY and the Head of its Regional Operations in the North, underscored the importance of re-evaluating and adding more teeth to the existing legal frameworks.
“This research has found that the internet is being used for the trafficking of children in India. Now, with the use of the internet in trafficking, especially among younger children, as indicated in this study, the provisions may need to be re-evaluated,” Soha noted.