Online learning and risks of exposure to sexual predators

By Marissa Nazeera

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused all schools to be closed and classes to be conducted virtually. Luckily, students and educators are adapting well to the current technology for the sake of education.

However, the worst case scenario would be that students will be exposed to online sexual predators. As we all know, online platforms have no boundaries unlike in school where once it’s over, students will return to their respective homes.

This will lead to online sexual grooming whereby students will be sexually exploited by any sexual predators who might be their teachers or even strangers. The wrong usage of technology in the online learning process itself could cause harm.

A study on “Vulnerability towards Online Sexual Grooming among Malaysian Children” by Asmi Asmidar, Mohammad Rahim, Suzaily Wahab, and others had examined the risk of this incident.

They had found that 18.5% of 205 underage respondents had occasionally encountered online adults talking about sex with them. 18.5% of them had also occasionally received nude or explicit photography and videos from online strangers. 

Before online classes became a norm, there were already online sexual grooming cases happening among school students. Around January 2020, a Johor school principal was found to have sexually groomed his student through texting explicit pictures.

Even worse, now there are a few cases where strangers had hijacked the online class session and played explicit video. There is also a case where the teacher asked the students to stay after class and made them do inappropriate things such as taking off their clothes.

Therefore, parents and siblings should always observe whether their family members are using the platform wisely. They should report such incidents quickly to the police or and let the authorities investigate. Please believe and appreciate the victim for letting you know. Thus, it is always necessary for adults to take things seriously.

Also as an initiative to avoid this, you can also educate the students of the do’s and don’ts while they are online or even offline. You can also watch together the R:AGE videos on Predator in My Phone series on Youtube to get a better understanding on this issue. 

Hence, as for the students under the age of 18, they will definitely be protected by the Child Act 2001 and Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017. However, if the case is not combated at an early stage, it might lead to sexual abuse or sexual harrasment. Thus, there is no specific indication that those above 18 years old will later be protected by the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998.

If online sexual grooming cases cannot be tackled, then we as a society are definitely in a great danger of sexual abuse and harassment on virtual platform.

It is therefore important for the government to intervene in such serious and concerning matters like this. Although we know the online platform has a high risk of danger, it is equally crucial for the vulnerable people to be protected online as well.*** 

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