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Monday, 9 August 2010

Child Protection Experts: Online Safety Needs More Than Panic Buttons

Dangers Of Online DatingImage by Don Hankins via Flickr
Child protection experts have warned that youngsters using social media websites need more than ‘panic buttons’ to protect them online from sexual predators.

The installation of the highly-visible button on all social networking web sites has been proposed as a response to the rape and murder of a British teenager who was lured to her death by a serial sex offender using a fake Facebook profile.

When installed, the panic button, pioneered by the British government’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), provides internet safety advice.

The Council of Europe (CoE), the region’s largest and oldest human rights intergovernmental organisation, says panic buttons can contribute to the fight against ‘internet grooming.’

But experts see the measure as just one ‘tool’ available to a strengthened public-private sector partnership geared to a policy of “robust law enforcement and determined child empowerment.”

This approach, outlined in the CoE’s 2007 Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, combines the punishment of offenders with an educational programme preparing children for the dangers they may face online.

“Panic buttons, like internet hotlines, are positive additions to any action plan to combat sexual violence against children,” a spokesman said.

“But they have to be part of a comprehensive system of robust law enforcement and determined child empowerment.

“That is why we urge countries to ratify the Council of Europe convention. We need law and punishment. We also need young people to be better educated about how they can use the internet in safety.”

The Council of Europe wants its 47 member states to ratify the 2007 treaty to clear the way for a public-private sector approach to tackling the sexual abuse and exploitation of youngsters.

It creates a multi-agency partnership of representatives from government, justice, education, social services and law enforcement and officials from information technology, the tourism and travel industry and the banking and financial sector.

The convention proposes that the government makes sure that confidentiality rules “do not constitute an obstacle” to the reporting of suspected crimes.

It also recommends that national law covers so-called ‘sex-tourism’ offences. This would allow courts to prosecute nationals suspected of committing criminal offences against children in foreign countries which decide not to bring legal charges.

Building a Europe for and with children

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