Digital Security for Children is Key

Panellists and parents gathered at this year’s Cambodia ICT Camp to discuss how to keep children safe online.
Nhem Piseth, from APLE Cambodia, speaks at Cambodia ICT Camp 2022 in Siem Reap. Kiripost/Samoeun Nicseybon
Nhem Piseth, from APLE Cambodia, speaks at Cambodia ICT Camp 2022 in Siem Reap. Kiripost/Samoeun Nicseybon

SIEM REAP, Digital security with a focus on child safety online was thrown under the spotlight at Cambodia ICT Camp 2022.

The workshop and panel discussion “MyData4Children'' saw international and national speakers share their experiences about maintaining digital safety for children. The workshop was specifically designed for children to join and share their opinions, while the panel discussion was open to adults and parents.

Nhem Piseth, from Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE Cambodia) and one of the speakers, said there are two general risks regarding children and the digital world. One is being contacted by a stranger and the other is the risk of being exposed to inappropriate content on social media.

APLE is a child protection NGO that has been working in Cambodia since 2003. It is dedicated to strengthening national social and legal mechanisms for the protection of children at risk of or affected by child sexual abuse and exploitation.

APLE is also a member of INHOPE organization Hotline, who works to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation concerning child sexual abuse material.

“In 2021, we received reports concerning online child sexual abuse and exploitation. In total, 128 reports, and 57 of those reports concerned child sexual abuse material. Some of the materials are being circulated online,” said Piseth.

He added that in Cambodia the process of tackling the problem using technological solutions remains limited. In other countries, especially in the West, they already have automated detection of content.

Another problem raised by one of the panelists, Dixon Siu, of MyData Global, is when children are at risk, they do not dare to report the issue to their parents.

“Sometimes children do not open up and talk with their parents about what happened to them. The only way we can do this is to have an open relationship with the family so they can always feel comfortable talking to their mother or father. As a parent, we have to be sure that we don’t release any information as possible and always be open to them, ” said Dixon.

In July 2021, Cambodia officially launched its National Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Online Child Sexual Exploitation in Cambodia 2021-2025.

In the press release regarding the launch, UNESCO said: “Online Child Sexual Exploitation is a global problem and poses a serious threat to children. In 2020, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that the number of cases of online child sexual exploitation has risen to more than 21.7 million worldwide, and most of the perpetrators were not known by the child victims.”

Sokta Chea, a 38- year-old mother of two, who joined the panel discussion, said this kind of communication is vital, especially for parents who are not familiar with technology.

“As we can see, technology is developing for the parents who have knowledge about technology. They might be able to discuss and prevent their children from being harmed,” she said.

Sokta added parents often give phones or other electronic devices to children without thinking about the potential risks.

“In Cambodia, parents only think that giving children their phone is to keep them distracted and not annoy them. They do not care about the risks. Some even let their children create their own social media accounts.”

Thy Try, executive director of Open Development Cambodia, said at the opening remark of the camp that the three main focus of the camp this year is open data, data security, and data journalism. He added this year is special as the topic of data security also focuses on children.

“The purpose of the Cambodia ICT Camp 2022 is to give the chance for participants to share their knowledge and strengthen their digital skill. This year is very special as we have a program dedicated to open data and ICT Community, in which speakers and experts will discuss the topic of technology and children.”