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Children's Day: PACE rapporteur highlights ‘hidden dangers’ of online use

Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus, EPP/CD), general rapporteur on children for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has spoken out on the eve of Universal Children’s Day 2014 (20 November) to highlight the dangers of communication technologies for children.

“I would once again like to draw attention to communication technologies, which have opened up extraordinary opportunities for our children and play an important role in their lives. When used well, they can enrich learning and development processes.

However, these technologies also pose many hidden dangers for our children. It is important to remain vigilant so as to ensure that children are not exposed to information which may be harmful for them, or to virtual or real-life assaults from those who would abuse the anonymity these technologies can provide.

The most worrying pattern is children being chased by sexual abusers on-line. Sexual predators use new technologies to get direct access to children and young people in chat rooms, blog sites and on social media. The increase in virtual ‘stalking’ and ‘grooming’ has been enormous.

Sexual violence also includes the production, posting, accessing and downloading of sexually explicit images of children. Easily accessible porn material changes children’s perception of sexuality, harmfully affecting their natural development. Children are exposed to large amounts of age-inappropriate content when they are not yet ready.

We need to care for our children in this virtual, potentially dangerous world of new technologies. Children are not ‘small’ adults; they need to be recognised as bearers of their own rights, they need to be protected and they have a right to well-being now.”