UNODC combats cybercrime to keep children safe online during the COVID 19 pandemic


DAKAR  October is Cybersecurity Awareness month and the opportunity to remind internet users to stay alert to cyber dangers lurking online.

With the closure of schools and other support services, the likely increase in online time, and the confinement at home, it is considered that children may be at an increased risk of sexual exploitation both online and offline.

Law enforcement agencies, government and non-government organizations (NGOs) globally have expressed concerns regarding the impact COVID-19 isolation measures may have on crimes against children.

Confinement measures are increasing the amount of time children and adults spend online for educational, professional, entertainment and social purposes, and are creating an inadvertent risk of sexual exploitation by predators operating online.

To promote cybersecurity during the month of October, the UNODC Global Cybercrime Program in Dakar is rolling out an awareness video for kids each week on a different aspect of online safety.

The short, animated videos illustrate the dangers of sexting, speaking to strangers online, cyberbullying, and opting-in to purchase ‘gifts’.  For maximum impact, the videos have been released in French, English, and Portuguese, on the UNODC twitter accounts, as well as platforms in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana (in collaboration with UNICEF), Benin, Senegal, Mali, and Nigeria.

According to research by Interpol, international child protection/rights organizations state that during previous public health emergencies (vis., Ebola in 2014-16 in West Africa), the closure of schools contributed to spikes in sexual abuse of children and teenage pregnancies. In Sierra Leone, cases of teenage pregnancy more than doubled to 14,000.

Vulnerable children are at heightened risk of exploitation, notably those living without parental care, a situation that will likely be increased by COVID-19. There is an increased risk of sexual exploitation of children, including sex for assistance, commercial sexual exploitation of children and forced early marriage.

In areas severely affected by COVID-19, situations where parents are hospitalized and children are placed under others’ care or are uncared for, are likely to increase the risk of abuse.

The UNODC Global Cybercrime Program prevention and awareness campaign for victims and guardians relating to the risk of CSEA online, including campaigns communicated through gaming, messaging and social media platforms, aims to prevent this cyber risk.

View the videos on twitter : @CarmenCorbin_UN