A national campaign to protect children from online exploitation and blackmail will be launched today by various government agencies.

The nationwide programme aims to raise cybersecurity awareness among children to protect them from fraudsters, online predators and violent content, among other emerging threats.

The Himaya (protection) campaign will run until the end of the year and is being conducted by the Public Prosecution in co-operation with various ministries.

A Press conference will be held today during which officials from relevant government bodies will be present to share details of the campaign.

“The campaign will focus on educating parents and caregivers on identifying and responding to cases of online exploitation and blackmail targeting children,” said a statement.

“The initiative also includes implementing guidelines for managing children’s Internet use and utilising digital safety applications.”

A joint co-ordination meeting was held between the Public Prosecution, Interior Ministry, Social Development Ministry, Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry, Information Ministry and the Education Ministry to discuss the roadmap for the new initiative.

This includes the campaign’s strategy, roles of organisers and partners, event themes and planned activities.

Assistant Attorney General Counsellor Wael Buallay said the idea for the campaign was developed through consultations between the Public Prosecution and the organising ministries to enhance child protection by raising awareness of the risks associated with cyberspace for children.

He emphasised the “importance of protecting children in cyberspace through awareness campaigns, alongside legislative measures, security protocols and judicial oversight.

“This proactive approach was essential for reducing crimes, particularly those impacting children, such as sexual, psychological, and economic exploitation, online blackmail, and coercion,” added Mr Buallay.

“These crimes often involve luring victims to commit immoral acts, followed by exploitation for financial gain or other material benefits, often under threat or coercion to commit further offences.”

Bahrain joined Interpol’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database last month as it steps up efforts to combat online child exploitation, in line with the directives of Interior Minister General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.

The Children’s Cyberspace Protection Unit of the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security joined the database that is designed to support experts working on cases involving the sexual and online exploitation of children.

It enables member-states to share information and experiences related to these types of issues among themselves.

The database also provides access to the best expertise to help member-states combat child sexual and electronic exploitation effectively.

Several employees from the unit passed a 14-day training course on the database held at the Interpol headquarters in France. This included uploading data and analysing the results.

A national toll-free child helpline (998) also works round-the-clock to receive calls from children or concerned adults reporting violence, abuse or danger.

Cybercrime and cyberbullying is a major concern in the kingdom with schools and entities such as the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) raising awareness on the matter over the years to help children protect themselves and have a better understanding on what to do under the circumstances.

Cybersecurity was also added to the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Violence and Addiction Programme, or Maan (Together), in 2022, which covers more than 120,000 students of different age groups in different government and private schools.

The TRA also conducted a National Internet Safety Review which revealed that cyberbullying was a major threat to the health and well-being of children in Bahrain.

It had surveyed almost 2,500 schoolchildren between aged 12 and 18 from around the country.

Education Minister Dr Mohammed Mubarak Juma had even shared that plans are underway to develop cyber education and teaching methods in schools and universities despite the challenges associated with open space.

Copyright 2022 Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).