Over 400% increase has been reported in cyber crimes against children in 2020 when compared to the previous year, says a report by the National Crimes Record Bureau. In 2019, 164 cases of cyber crimes against children were reported. And in 2018 and 2017, 117 and 79 cases were reported.
Most cases were reported in Uttar Pradesh (170 cases), Karnataka (144 cases), Maharashtra (137 cases), Kerala (107 cases), and Odisha (71 cases). The majority of the cases are related to materials depicting children in sexually explicit acts. Among the 842 cases of online offences, 738 cases were about publishing or transmitting materials depicting children in sexually explicit acts.
Puja Marwaha, CEO, CRY-Child Rights and You, observed that children's increased access to the internet has also put them at risk of being exposed to online sexual abuse, grooming, sexual solicitation, and sexting. They are also vulnerable to exposure to pornography, production and circulation of child sexual abuse material, cyberbullying, online harassment, and cyber victimisation.
She added that children are spending more time on the internet for accessing education and communication. But it comes with privacy-related risks. "There is little evidence to ascertain the scale of the impact of the epidemic containment measures on online abuse and exploitation of children. But the closure of schools and children's increased exposure to the online space may have had serious implications," she said.
A UNICEF report said that 37.6 million children in India have been accessing education through online initiatives during the Covid-19 pandemic. Marwaha stated that increased use of the internet has affected the psycho-social well-being of children. She added that children are at risk of loneliness, mood to conduct disorders, substance abuse, and anxiety disorder.
Marwaha further pointed out that there is a limited understanding among caregivers, educators, and society regarding children's experiences and perceived risks.