Officials from the Battambang branch of the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) call on parents, guardians and teachers to pay closer attention to protecting children from online sexual exploitation.

Yan Udom, deputy head of the branch, issued the appeal during a March 24 presentation to more than 70 CRC youth and students at Net Yang High School in Battambang town.

Udom said the outreach session was held to encourage the CRC youth to pay more attention to the issue, as the rise of technology has made it easier for children to come into contact with strangers online.

“We call on all parents and guardians to take measures to protect their children from online exploitation. They should educate their children about the difference between safe and unsafe online behaviour, and teach them to identify people who could be dangerous when they are online,” he said.

“Parents or guardians need to show children how to protect their privacy. They should also listen to their children’s problems, in order to show that they care. This way, a child is more likely to share something that makes them uncomfortable,” he continued.

He explained that children who have been abused or exploited often suffer severe physical and emotional trauma.

“Many of them find it difficult to trust others, and experience feelings of despair, loneliness and fear,” he said.

A similar three-day outreach workshop was organised by the CRC branch in Pursat province on “Preventing online sexual exploitation and the negative social behaviour of children with disabilities”, with approximately 200 participants.

In September last year, the Cambodian National Council for Children – under the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation – and UNICEF in Cambodia released a report titled Disrupting Harm in Cambodia.

The report found that 11 per cent of internet users between the ages of 12 and 17 had experienced some form of online sexual abuse or exploitation.

Based on the Cambodia population, this would indicate that 160,000 children have been affected.

The report said that 16 per cent of children suffer from sexual harassment, with 31 per cent of them saying it had occurred via social media. A further 16 per cent said they had received pornographic images that they did not want to see.