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Stay away from Facebook groups with euphonious parenting names Newspaper Nova Makedonija, no. 22351, Tuesday, 09.08.2011

“Putting photos of children, information concerning the school they attend and places, they go to can be very risky. The key to protection is to think before you submit something on social networks’’ says Irina Shumadieva (foundation Metamorphosis).

Behind the pages on Facebook, ostensibly for fun, a network of paedophiles is lurking. Nowadays, users from the social network sent appeals to friends to avoid groups with euphonious names, because of the danger of hidden online predators searching for new victims, through children photos. There had not been any Internet-paedophile network detected in Macedonia, according to the Ministry of Inner Affairs.

Non-governmental organizations require more active involvement of the police and the competent institutions in order to rise the awareness, at children and parents, about the danger lurking on the Internet.

United Nations data imply that above 750 000 paedophiles permanently lurk on the Internet, having only one aim-to establish contact with children. According to the world organization, the number of children pornographic online pages is rising. Such pages where juveniles and even children under age two are shown exist in a number of 4 million.

The danger of online paedophilia is proved by the latest action of the FBI that cracked a large international network of paedophiles, who shared pictures and videos of abused children through private Internet forum. One branch of the paedophile network was reached also in our region. During the action in Serbia, 4 men were arrested. One was from Krushevac, two men from Subotica and one man from Novi Sad. They were required to resell porn material with children.

The similar case in Macedonia is still fresh. A 10 years old child was misled with dirty intentions, over Facebook, by a 25 years old man from Strumica.

Familiar with this matter, people say that parents and their children must be very careful what kind of photos and information they put on their profiles on social networks.

“Parents and children need to know that not all offers arrive from realistic people’’ says Dragi Zmijanac, Executive Director of the First Children Embassy in the World “Megjashi’’.

According to Zmijanac, the Internet is increasingly becoming a field where paedophiles seek out their next victims. They use the popularity of social networks, knowing that most children spend the day on the computer.

The Megjashi staffs say that in the prevention from online sexual predators, the police should be actively involved.

“The protection on children’s rights and ensuring security and safety while using Internet, must be conducted by first, providing and implementing public awareness of online risks and measures of protection. Involvement of the Ministry of Inner Affairs, the Department for Fight against cyber crime means an organized fight against illegal contents (especially sexual abuse of children, child pornography) and stop the damaging behaviour of online predators that attack profiles, as well as the curiosity, inexperience and lack of knowledge at children” claims Megjashi’s director.

“Children shall pay attention about the photos they put on Internet and who they contact with. Children find the online friend more confident in order to share their sexual desire, than their own parents. Parents, on the other hand, need to actively follow their children, their behaviour and the useful usage of Internet. If unpleasant content is received, children have to inform their parents immediately. Social networks are recommended for teenagers above the age of 15, when there is no ethical sense that they are supervised by their parents. However, it is still essential that children talk with their parents about those topics, in order to keep their safety and privacy. Parents need to pay attention about the type of photos that their children put as profile photos on their profiles’’ adds Zmijanac.

Irina Shumadieva, project coordinator at the “Metamorphosis” foundation thinks that for children safety, it is necessary to rise awareness about dangers lurking online, at children and parents at the same time.

“Although the age limit for opening a Facebook profile is above 13, many children aged below 13 can be still found on the social network. Therefore, it shall be worked on raising public awareness at parents and children about the sensibility of the behaviour online. Putting photos, personal information, and leisure time activities description might be very risk. That means children can be easily found by paedophiles in real life. The key of protecting is to think before submitting anything on social networks.’’ claims Shumadieva.

Translated by: Mila Damjanoska