At least one in 10 children are likely to have been asked to upload intimate photos or videos of themselves on the Internet.
According to the statistics from the Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Unit of the Royal Malaysian Police and DiGi CyberSAFE in Schools 2015 National Survey, there was an increase of 300 per cent in Internet-initiated rape cases in the country between 2010 and 2015.
The same survey also found that close to 80 per cent of reported rape cases by predators in Malaysia over the past two years involved Internet acquaintances and the majority of victims were under 18.
These were revealed during the #SayaSayangSaya Town-hall held here, the third such event was held after Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan.
The initiative was meant to raise nationwide awareness amongst Malaysian adolescents and young children on online predators (cyber-grooming).
It was jointly organised by DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, R.AGE, WOMEN:girls and Unicef and supported by the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations of Malaysia (FRHAM) and the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM).
The event also aimed to take Internet safety conversation outside of Klang Valley to provide adolescents and youths with a safe space to articulate, and share their experiences, concerns and recommendations on internet-related sexual violence.
“At DiGi, we are continuously working with our programme partners who share our same beliefs and values to protect our children from cyber threats, finding new ways to combat cyber-grooming,” said DiGi CyberSAFE Programme Manager Philip Ling during the press conference.
He said through platforms like #SayaSayangSaya, DiGi wanted to pro-actively build digital resiliency in children.
“If their participation is not managed well, their exploration, experimentation and interest in defining themselves socially and sexually in the cyber world can increase their offline and online vulnerability to be harmed,” he said.
He said the youth-friendly town-halls will be held in at least five states throughout the year and was formed based on the principle that any healthy relationship starts with loving and respecting oneself first.
He added that the lack of proper reproductive education and digital safety knowledge can cause children to become more susceptible to cyber-grooming, when they are unable to identify signs of grooming.
“Additionally, more sexual predators are using the Internet and technology to find, abuse and exploit their victims.
As a result, the act of ‘grooming’ a child for sexual acts via the Internet has emerged as a troubling issue in this country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Unicef Child Protection Specialist Selvi Supramaniam said youths in the country are amongst the most digitally connected in the world and they should equally be the best protected when engaging online.
“Most child abuse cases in Malaysia are perpetrated by people that the child knows – not just non-Malaysians and strangers, and it is now happening online, not just in real life,” she said.
The Kota Kinabalu town-hall will be followed by another in Kota Baru, Sarawak and Kedah.
Malaysians can also join in on the live tweet chats by following #SayaSayangSaya on Twitter.
Apart from the town-hall series, youths can also participate in polls on Teen Relationships and Online dating at http://malaysia.ureport.in/ to learn more about sexual crimes on the Internet.