A criminologist warns that many children are only minimally aware of online dangers such as sexual predators lurking on social media, amid reports that Malaysians has the most uploaders and downloaders of Malaysia child pornography in the region.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) associate professor P Sundramoorthy said most children and teenagers did not realise when they were approached by such individuals, despite the many awareness campaigns on the matter.

“Teenagers may be biologically mature but not mentally.

“It is easy to mislead them into becoming involved in sexual acts with these perpetrators,” he said.

Even if such acts were voluntary, he added, there was such a thing as statutory rape.

“We keep denying the importance of instilling sexual awareness to ensure responsible behaviour among youths.

“Denial by bureaucrats and policymakers will create more harm, and this harm will continue because of perpetrators’ accessibility to victims through social media.”

He said the perpetrators could be categorised into two groups: those who download child pornography and those who target children and minors because of their naivety.

“Children are often left unsupervised and have access to social media,” he said, adding that sexual predators were just waiting for an opportunity to victimise their potential targets.

According to a recent report by Sin Chew Daily, Malaysia has the highest number of IP addresses uploading and downloading child pornography in Southeast Asia.

The number of children falling prey to individuals they meet online is also on the rise, it said.

Sundramoorthy acknowledged efforts by the authorities to fight such issues, but said it was like fighting the war on drugs.

He said the problem would continue as long as there was easy access to social media and individuals continued to abuse it.

This was why it was important for parents or guardians to constantly monitor their children’s use of social media, he added.

“The long-term solution is to have moral education classes. If we don’t educate the young, we are going to keep seeing these figures increasing.”

‘Children don’t know’

A children’s welfare society organisation agreed, saying lack of education had contributed to the rise in cases of children falling prey to perpetrators without even knowing it.

The Suriana Welfare Society, which comprises charitable and welfare organisations, said many children did not know if they were in a situation where their rights were being violated.

“A lot of child sex predators are out there, harassing our children. But the children are unaware they are being treated in such a way,” the organisation’s leader, Scott Wong.

He said this indicated a lack of awareness and education among children.

Wong added that it was shocking and unacceptable for Malaysia to record the most downloaders of child pornography in Southeast Asia.

“The internet in Malaysia is unregulated, and there are all kinds of sites for pornography that people can freely access. Not just for child pornography.

“There was a recent report that four out of five students are addicted to pornography. This shows that pornography in Malaysia is rampant and out of control.”

Parents must take responsibility

The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) however said parents should be responsible for ensuring their children are aware of such issues, instead of relying too much on formal education.

PAGE chairman Noor Azimah Rahim said parents needed to monitor their children’s online activities as they were the ones who provided them with gadgets in the first place.

“Parents cannot give them freely without setting any rules,” she said, adding that children should also be encouraged to develop other hobbies.

“The best option is to get children to do something, or create an interest in something – playing a musical instrument, sewing, painting, drawing or even playing a sport.

“When your time is occupied, you won’t be thinking about how to spend it online.

“These are the things that we have forgotten. Some children don’t even know about hobbies,” she added.-FMT

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