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Rome Reports

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The main Internet dangers for children and teenagers

Experts from around the world are in Rome to attend the first organized world congress to find solutions to the dangers children face when they log on the Internet.

These dangers consist of sexual harassment, money requests in exchange for not disseminating compromising images, and bullying that crosses classroom limits. Additionally, these online threats are often hidden in false profiles or anonymous messages. Yet, they are becoming increasingly frequent and their consequences more serious. In extreme cases, suicide is the last step.

Ellie Allen worked for 28 years in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Minors in the United States and saw these risks.

"More children are being harmed, more children are being sexually abused, the photographs have been distributed online, they're now networks for people who are sexually interested in children where they can share images and information worldwide. It's a global phenomenon."

In the United States alone in 2016, eight million cases of cyberpedophilia were reported. This year, the numbers have exceeded 10 million. The shocking figures show that Internet can change the lives of minors, leaving a mark forever. 

Baroness Joanna Shields and UK Prime Minister David Cameron created WeProtect together. It's a global alliance of leading Internet companies that prevent pedophilia images from being posted online.

"Internet is like the basic life need at the moment. Everyone has to use it so it's not like you can avoid it but we need to ensure that they are prepared and they are digitally confident and resilient to recognize harms and dangers much like when we worry when they cross the street."

The innocent gesture of giving a minor a cell phone or a tablet as a distraction, can be the cause of negative long-term consequences, if young people are not taught how to use them.

Sometimes even parents themselves are not aware of the danger of certain applications and social networks.

"There was a video of a young boy who had been drawn into selling drugs on a social media site, which happens. There's been a recent documentary in the UK about how common this is. So all of these kids have been drawn into it by an influence of people that normally the parents would be vetting but they are no longer able to because they are connected to this device 24/7."

According to experts, the Internet is a double-edged sword, so it is so important that both parents and children communicate and establish guidelines to use it wisely. That way, as soon as the smallest threat is indicated, a solution can immediately be found.