May and Bay are exploring the vast online world – and learning to keep themselves safe from the threats to their safety. And by helping these two digital characters stay safe in the online world, children can now learn more about and gain the skills needed for navigating the risks in the digital world.
This is part of a new culturally informed educational ‘game’ that has been developed to help educate children and young people across Thailand and Cambodia on how to better keep themselves safe online. This simulation game lets children explore various online scenarios and is designed to spot the signs of online grooming and recognise the tactics that abusers and traffickers employ.
The project is led by the Centre for Child Protection at the University of Kent, aiming to prevent the online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) of children in Thailand and Cambodia, and is launched following a funding grant from the End Violence Partnership’s Safe Online Initiative.
Educating and empowering children
Existing research combined with the local knowledge of partners ECPAT and A21, has identified that OCSEA is an ongoing problem in Thailand and Cambodia. Disrupting Harm – a large-scale research project that aims to better understand how digital technology facilitates the sexual exploitation and abuse of children – has revealed that In the past year alone, nine percent of 12–17-year-old internet users in Thailand were victims of grave instances of online child sexual abuse and exploitation (OCSEA). While recent work to reform legislation and develop policy responses to the crime is commendable, support is needed to improve awareness, knowledge and skills related to OCSEA within the child protection sector in Thailand. And research has found that Cambodia is one of the most significant destinations in South East Asia for travelling child sex offenders.
Innovative and educative projects such as May and Bay are essential in creating awareness and equipping and empowering children themselves. They encourage children’s critical thinking and decision-making skills in an online environment and, importantly, empower children to understand how their actions can keep them safe.
The impact of Safe Online grantees
University of Kent was awarded a funding grant by End Violence’s Safe Online initiative in 2020. Safe Online grantees from around the world are working to make the Internet safe for children across the world at national, regional and national levels. They are working on creating solutions to tackle harm such as online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Over the past five years, the Safe Online portfolio has grown to reach US$ 68 million in investments in 80 projects working to end and prevent online CSEA in over 75 countries. Part of our work involves stimulating collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the world – and most recently, over 40 grantees convened alongside donors and industry representatives to align around a shared vision of a safe Internet for children everywhere.
Action to #ENDviolence
Despite the global challenges society faces today, positive change for children is taking place across countries and sectors – driven by governments, individuals and organisations fighting to ensure safe, secure and nurturing childhoods for girls and boys. As part of the Together to #ENDviolence campaign, we are placing a spotlight on these dedicated efforts that are delivering impact.
Image: © UNICEF/UNI358629/Cristofoletti