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Dangers of the Web

By CECÍLIA PIRES

[email protected]

THE POLÍCIA Judiciária (PJ) is using the internet to warn children and parents against the growing dangers of the web.

Through a project named Anjos com Guarda (guardian of angels), the PJ wants everyone to be aware that the internet is a paradise for sexual criminals and predators.

Ricardo Valadas, inspector of the PJ and main coordinator of the project since it was created in 2004, was at a special seminar called Olhares sobre a Infância e Juventude (looking towards children and teenagers) to explain what their mission is and to alert younger users about the dangers of communicating on the internet with strangers.

The event was held over two days, on October 25 and 26, at Ria Formosa, in Olhão, and was promoted by the local branch of the Comissão de Protecção de Crianças e Jovens, a national entity that works with children that are victims of several types of abuse.

According to the PJ inspector, 16.6 per cent of the world population is using the internet permanently, which means that more than one billion people are always online in some part of the planet.“It (the internet) is a ‘monster’ of information and communication”, he said, leaving children vulnerable in this world of technology and anonymity.

The growing number of cases involving children who disappear after a contact on the internet is one of the reasons that led to the creation of Anjos com Guarda. “We go to schools, we are available on our website and we want young people and parents to understand why putting personal information and photographs on the internet can be so dangerous.”

Chat rooms

Official numbers indicate that a total of 1.8 million children disappear every year and about four per cent of them are never recovered.

The role of the internet in these figures is not completely determined, but it is possible to know that 74 per cent of internet predators use chat rooms to seduce their targets.

“About 89 per cent of sexual invitations to children and teenagers are made in those chat rooms,” said the inspector, adding: “Young people are so easy to fool and misinform and parents need to be more aware of what is going on.”

The event started with a welcoming speech from the president of Olhão Câmara, José Leal, and several other local political personalities.

On the first day, the first session was dedicated to a discussion on the national system for protection of children and youngsters and also present were psychologists and sociologists working in local departments involving children’s protection.

This was followed by a session entitled Sexual abuse in childhood and youth, where issues like the first signs of abuse and the consequences of emotional abuse over children were analysed by speakers.

The seminar continued the following day with sessions including Early school leaving and host families – a new approach.

The event attracted health professionals, police agents, psychologists and students.

For detailed information on the Anjos com Guarda website, please visit: http://www.anjoscomguarda.info, be aware this website is only in Portuguese. About the Internet Watch Foundation, please visit: http://www.twf.org.uk/