Ian Stevenson CEO at Cyan Forensics discusses what COVID-19 will mean for child internet safety
Sexual predators are taking advantage of apps which are less secure – the NCA is currently investigating over 120 cases of ‘Zoombombing’ child abuse incidents where a stranger enters a private video call and shares explicit imagery. Befriending isolated and vulnerable children through the messaging functions on apps is another example of how sexual predators are grooming children. Further risks which have been exacerbated by isolation include: online abuse, cyberbullying, and sharing illicit images between peers which can later be used for blackmail.
Why collaboration is key
Tech platforms and governments need to come together to ensure that they are well equipped to protect vulnerable children. The COVID-19 crisis could provide the catalyst for increased dialogue between these parties.
Positive steps are already underway – the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA) launched in 2020, is a partnership between expert analysts and innovative tech companies who share the joint mission of making the internet a safer place, led by Cyan Forensics and PUBLIC. They are currently working to establish an Introductory Guide for Online Safety which includes insight from government agencies and civil society organisations and will run alongside their broader work on influencing policy and regulation to prevent child sexual abuse and make the online space safer for all.
Online safety is a broad and complicated topic. Its pervasive nature makes it difficult to stop and prevent. As such, there is no one size fits all solution. Undoubtedly, the current COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the risks posed to children. Equally, this challenging period has intensified the need for preventative measures to stop child abuse and added to the impetus for governments and organisations to work together. Enacting change is an ongoing process, made possible by close cooperation between a range of organisations. Progress has certainly been made in this sector, but it’s important to keep focus and continue to create safe online environments.
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