| Faza Suraj |
THE Community Development Department yesterday held a forum themed ‘Child Online Safety’ in celebration of Universal Children’s Day at the Convention Centre in Kuala Belait.
The forum saw more than 100 students from 20 different schools in the Belait District.
The guest of honour at the event was Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.
In his speech, he explained the importance of children’s role as future leaders who will drive the country’s development and highlighted that globally children are seen as precious legacies who will enhance the world’s social harmony and economic growth.
“The Universal Children’s Day is celebrated annually since its introduction in 1954 and its objectives have not changed since then. It is important to raise awareness among the people, locally and globally, of their roles and responsibilities in protecting their rights and future,” said the minister.
“This is because children are vulnerable to various threats and mistreatment – ranging from sexual exploitation, neglect, physical and mental abuse. They are also easily exposed to social issues and phenomena such as poverty, famine, lack of education, HIV/AIDS infection, to name a few.”
Referring to a UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) report, the minister said, “Twenty-two thousand children die each day due to poverty and six million children under the age of five dies each year from starvation. In terms of health and education, more than 30 million of the world’s children do not receive immunisation from diseases that could be treated and prevented and more than 134 million children – aged seven to 18 years old – do not receive formal education. In addition, two million of them are believed to be exploited for commercial reasons and a further 246 million are pushed into child labour.”
The Millennium Development Goals, introduced by the leaders of the world in 2000, the minister said, focus on “eight main objectives, which include eradicating poverty, fighting the threat of HIV/AIDS and to ensure the appropriate provision of education for all and are concentrated on the children. Universal Children’s Day is held to remind us that even in this modern age, there are still issues affecting the children.”
“According to a survey made by the International Telecommunication Union, more than 60 per cent of children communicate via chat rooms every day, three out of four children easily expose their personal and family details in exchange for goods and services. Meanwhile, every year one out of five children falls victim to sexual predators. At the same time 30 per cent of female teenagers face online sexual disturbances through chat rooms. However, only seven per cent report to their parents or guardians.
“Brunei Darussalam with all the health services and facilities accompanied with education and welfare provided by His Majesty’s Government, is close to fulfilling the said goals to protect children and their rights to life, health and education.
“However, Brunei isn’t exempted from the issues of abuse and mistreatment of children including threats and exploitation through cyberspace. To ensure that this does not happen rampantly, the government has introduced laws aimed at protecting children from maltreatment and exploitation such as the Women and Girls Protection Act; Children and Young Persons Act 2006; Islamic Family Order 1999; Unlawful Carnal Knowledge Act; and Trafficking and Smuggling of Persons Order 2004.”
This year’s theme ‘Child Online Safety’ was selected with the purpose of highlighting the need for increasing efforts towards safe usage of the Internet amongst children, the minister clarified.
He added, “Without proper monitoring, children can be endangered by the negative aspects of the Internet, such as online gambling, pornography, cyberbullying, and attempts to ensnare kids in unhealthy and immoral activities.
“The government will also strive towards ensuring the safety of the children is taken care of, through organising educational programmes to guide parents, educators, and the children themselves through the ‘Cyber Security Awareness Seminar’ hosted annually by Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry (AITI) of Brunei Darussalam with the cooperation of the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Royal Brunei Police Force and schools across the nation.
“With the recent addition of the Child Online Protection Committee under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, it is hoped that the programmes and activities will raise the vigilance of all parties on the negative aspects of the Internet and enhance awareness about the positive aspects that can be acquired from it,” the minister ended.
The format of this year’s celebration – in the form of a forum – allowed children to interact with each other and gave participants the opportunity to get to know the efforts, services and programmes carried out by the different agencies involved in the Child Online Protection Framework.
Other than the forum, seven government and non-government agencies – Community Development Department, Language and Literature Bureau, Royal Brunei Police Force, Islamic Dakwah Centre, IT Protective Security Sercives Sdn Bhd/BRUCERT, Perdana Wazir Secondary School and Baiduri Bank (as the main sponsor) – held a showcase on services relating to children.