A recent study has found the growth of information and communication technology, including online chatrooms and other forms of social media, is bringing a new, more widespread dimension to child sex exploitation throughout Southeast Asia.
“Almost every child who has been a victim of internet sexual abuse said they met with somebody through social media,” said Sudaryanto, Indonesia manager of Terres des Hommes, an international child rights organization, in a press conference on Thursday.
Chat applications such as Blackberry Messenger are also often used in the hunt for customers, Sudaryanto added.
Indonesia is particularly vulnerable, Sudaryanto said.
“The potential for sexual abuse through the internet in Indonesia is very big because internet use in Indonesia continues to grow.”
Sudaryanto added that there were several factors that are contributing to the growing number of child sexual abuse cases, such as parents who are unfamiliar with the growth of today’s communication technologies.
“There are four factors that contribute to cases of internet sex child abuse, one of them is low monitoring from parents who are not tech savvy,” he said.
“Family issues, economic status and influence from friends or environment can also become issues that cause such practices.”
In their research, the organization, which focuses on putting an end to child exploitation, highlighted an alarming increase in practices of child sex abuse through webcams in various countries across the world, and in this region, especially in neighboring Philippines.
“Child sex abuse through webcams involves tens of thousands of victims,” said Hanneke Oudkerk, regional program adviser for Terre des Hommes Southeast Asia in Jakarta on Thursday.
Despite only discovering three perpetrators located in Indonesia throughout their research, the organization managed to attract a total of up to 20,000 predators from all over the world by using a virtual ten-year-old character named Sweetie, which was operated by researchers from the organization.
Of the 20,000 predators, three were identified as individuals who resided in Indonesia.
“We hope the government will move to adopt and investigate proactive policies that would instruct law enforcement officers to actively set patrols in public internet domains,” said Hans Guijit, the organization’s campaign director.