Save the Children is urging the government to appoint a commissioner for children’s online safety after a survey suggested four in 10 students in Hong Kong have been exposed to unwanted sexual content online.
The survey that it commissioned, which quizzed about 1,300 pupils aged between eight and 17 for six months up to December 2021, also found that school students were asked by others to make their own material.
“Because e-safety is such an important topic that requires our attention, we would like to see the authorities establish a special commissioner for online safety for children,” Carol Szeto, the chief executive of the NGO said.
She added that authorities should associate the position with an independent body that could look after online safety issues.
"That way, we have a focal point in the authorities. And we will also have an independent agency that kids will feel more comfortable [with]. When they report something, someone will follow through and investigate it.”
Szeto also pointed out that those who are neglected and abused in the physical world are more likely to experience online sexual abuse or harassment.
“That’s probably because in the physical world, they are lacking that care and love from their parents, from people around them…and that unfortunately makes them more vulnerable.”
Dr. Clifton Emery, lead researcher of the study and associate professor of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, said the findings showed online victimisation of teenagers is a serious problem in Hong Kong and is strongly related to child neglect.
"Lonely teenagers and those more dependent on the internet for socialising are at significantly greater risk of being victimised online. This points to the importance of targeting resources pre-emptively for the most vulnerable teens. Parental care and guidance, along with support from teachers and social workers, can reduce risk so that teens can get the most benefits out of the digital world.”
Szeto called on parents to find ways to engage with their children's digital life and explore the internet safely with them, adding that schools should also provide guidance.