While last year around 700 cases of abuse on minors over the Internet were reported, in the first six months of this year, the number of cases of abuse which have been reported has already exceeded 900. TVM spoke with Deborah Vassallo, an official from the agency Appoġġ, who said that every case is investigated and the necessary help is given to children and their families.
Mrs Vassallo said it is worrying that between January and June of this year, the cases of online abuse have already amounted to 919, around 200 more than last year.
She added that this online abuse is taking place while children are using various online apps through their mobile, computers and tablets. TVM asked why this abuse on minors is increasing.
“One of the reasons was that children were spending a long time online because of the pandemic, they were not at school and did not have any physical contact with their friends.”
She said that cases of abuse have come in of children while they are playing various Internet games with other children online, who turn out to be adults pretending to be children. The adults end up abusing the children in various ways, and even persecute them. Mrs Vassallo said that when a report enters Aġenzija Appoġġ together with the team Besmartonline, an investigation is carried out, however help is also given to the children and their parents.
“You can have online gamers whom you do not know and this pandemic opened the door to online predators who look for children. They then carry out some form of wrong behaviour, such as taking photos, in order to trap them.”
Mrs Vassallo appealed to children to speak up if they feel abused, to get the help they need, so that the abuse can stop and those who are abusing them can be caught.
“It is important that if something happens to children, that they should speak to someone, either a guidance counsellor, or to their friends, or parents, even if someone is chatting with them and is bothering them.”
Children or adults who need help because of this type of abuse can go to the sites childwebalert.gov.mt jew, Besmartonline.org.mt or phone on 179. In order to create awareness about the rights of children to be free from all forms of abuse, to report and seek help when this happens, tomorrow we celebrate the European Day for the Protection of Children and against Exploitation and Sexual Abuse which is commemorated yearly by the Council of Europe.