The UN Children’s Agency has called for a new policy to protect Cambodian children from bullying.
In a statement released to coincide with Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, Unicef said young people between the ages of 15 and 25 years olds were particularly at risk.
Natascha Paddison, Unicef’s Cambodia representative in Cambodia, said the Internet had become a “kindness desert” where young people were exposed to online harassment.
“We’ve heard from children and young people from around the globe and what they are saying is clear: The Internet has become a kindness desert,” she said. “That’s why this Safer Internet Day, UNICEF is following young people’s lead and inviting everyone to be kind online and calling for greater action to make the Internet a safer place for everyone.”
Internet use in Cambodia is growing among young people, with almost one in 20 children under 15 estimated to be online, Unicef said. Older students, however, are more at risk, the group said.
Such bullying can have life-long impacts, it added.
“Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and skip school than other students. They also are more likely to receive poor grades and experience low self-esteem and health problems. In extreme situations, cyberbullying has led to suicide.”
Meas Bunly, Unicef communications officer, said not enough was being done in Cambodian schools to address the problem.
“There is no teaching at school and talk in society on how to use the Internet for a good cause. And when we are exposed to bad influences, how will we deal with it? This is all new for us. And it's not just the role of the government to deal with it, it is everybody's.”
In one recent case, a Cambodian Facebook user posted a video insulting Khmer people and in response received threats of violence.
Pa Chanroeun, director of the Cambodian Center for Applied Philosophy and Ethics and author of “Ethics for Internet Users”, told the Hello VOA program on Monday that a lack of ethics education was creating a crisis.
Cambodia has an estimated 7 million social media users and almost 11 million Cambodians use the Internet.