Safer Internet Day: Czech officials note rise in ‘moral’ cybercrime targeting children

Photo: April Bryant, Pixabay / CC0

This Tuesday is “Safer Internet Day”, part of an initiative of the EU SafeBorders project launched in 2004 to raise awareness of threats posed to children online. In the Czech Republic, police have noted a significant rise in cybercrime in recent years, with children increasingly falling victim to bullying and online predators.

Photo: April Bryant,  Pixabay / CC0
Last year, Czech police investigators registered nearly 8,500 cybercrimes, five times as many as a decade ago. Adults are most often the targets of online fraud, such as phishing attacks that aim to steal their personal data and money.

But a third of cybercrimes are “moral” in nature, police say. The greatest such threat to children is posed by sexual predators, followed by cyberbullying – which can include forms of blackmail – often by their peers.

Ahead of Safer Internet Day, Czech police showcased a project called Your Journey Online launched in January which aims to educate children about potential online dangers, specifically on social media networks.

Police spokesman Ondřej Moravčík explains:

“The aim above all is to show children how they can be manipulated on social media networks. Working with pedagogues, we present real life examples of exactly how children became victims of the so-called predators.”

The Ministry of Interior has funded the production 10 new short video spots under the heading “Be Careful in Cyberspace”, which spotlight potential risks of communicating online, for example how easily photos they post on the Internet can be misused.

Here’s one titled Kyberšikana (Cyberbullying):

“Jana was an ordinary fifth grader who lived with her grandmother in a small village. Unlike some of her classmates, she was very trusting and didn’t really know how to use a computer or protect herself online.

“So, when she wanted to post her holiday photos on her profile, she asked for help and gave some classmates her password. The girls took advantage of her trust and instead posted fake erotic photos of her. That’s when the cyberbullying began…”

Police spokesman Ondřej Moravčík says educating parents to the dangers that their children face is the best first step, followed by open discussions with their children. But many parent are unaware even of which platforms their children are using, or how social media like Instagram and TikTok work.

On the other hand, young people often have an unrealistic sense of their ability to recognise and navigate online threats, says Václav Koudele, the Safe Internet project manager at Microsoft Czech Republic and Slovakia.

“Millennials in general think that they are quite good at protecting themselves from cybercrime. From an early age they have been online, working with computers and technology. But I must say they are often, so to speak, driving without a licence.”

A recent survey of 2,825 Czech children showed that 84 percent access the Internet daily using their mobile phones while only 45 percent use a computer. More than a third have encountered some form of harassment or attack online in the past year, according to the project EU Kids Online IV data.