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Study says : 33 percent of parents report that their children are approached by strangers through online platforms

Almost 33 percent of the 424 parents surveyed said their children had been approached by strangers through online platforms asking for friendship, searching for personal and family information and for sexual advice, according to a new report. Apart from 424 parents from Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, the participants also included 384 teachers from four states and 107 other stakeholders from three states (West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra).

According to parents, 40 percent of children reporting incidents of online solicitation and abuse were teenage girls aged 14-18, closely followed by teenage boys (33 percent) in the same age group. Regarding parents who shared that their children reported experiences of online sexual exploitation and abuse of children (OCSEA), responses were received from rural areas rather than urban areas, with both male and female respondents accounting for these incidents.

The study is jointly conducted by CRY (Child Rights and You) and Chanakya National Law University (CNLU), Patna. It found that one-third (33.2 percent) of parents surveyed said their children had been approached by strangers through online platforms asking for friendship, seeking personal and family information, and discussing sexual relationship advice. Inappropriate sexual content was also shared with the children and they engaged in sexual conversations online, they said.

When asked what action they would like to take if their children faced OCSEA, only 30 percent of parents said they would go to the police station and file a complaint, while “an alarming 70 percent rejected that option.”

Additionally, only 16 percent of parents reported being aware of any legislation regarding OCSEA. These findings indicated a huge information deficit and low parental trust in legal and law enforcement agencies, the report said.

The most common behavioral changes teachers noted in children were truancy and unexcused absences from school (both 26 percent), followed by increased use of smartphones at school (20.9 percent).

Soha Moitra, director of development support at CRY and head of its regional operations in the north, emphasized the importance of reviewing and adding more teeth to existing legal frameworks.This research found that the internet is being used for child trafficking in India. Now, with the use of the internet in human trafficking, especially among younger children, as shown in this study, the provision may need to be reconsidered.

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