CAMELEON’s “Actions Schools” program has been existing since 2014 and aims to raise awareness of children’s rights so that they are better protected from violence. It was reinforced in September 2019 with a comprehensive prevention approach integrating parents and supervisors. For the past year, we have conducted 64 interventions in a dozen schools with more than 1300 students.
On November 20th, International Children’s Rights Day, we are making a first assessment of our actions in the field and we wish to share several recommendations with the government. It is getting pretty urgent to act as the health crisis and the confinement have exacerbated the risks of intra-family violence and cybercrime impacting children.
Actions mainly at the primary level, i.e. with 6-10 years old children.
1- Students' lack of awareness of their rights and of 119
More than 30 years after the adoption of the CRC(The International Convention on the Rights of the Child), and despite the mandatory 119 posters in schools, less than a third of the children surveyed (27%) know that they have rights and recall the phone number “Hello Child in Danger”. Nevertheless, most of them know that they have the right to be protected and that parents CANNOT hit their children, even if this is not always respected in their own family. During our actions, children often disclose abuse, but they do not always identify it as abuse.
Others understand the abnormal nature of what they are experiencing but prefer to remain silent because they also express their fear of being separated from their parents (because of social services or the Police). However, we see progress following the recent communication campaigns on 119 during confinement and strongly encourage continuation of these initiatives to increase their visibility.
2- Children unaware of risk situations and exposed to cyber-violence at an early age
When we talk about risky or worrying situations, many children are not able to identify what is a danger. These children, who are between 6 and 10 years old, have difficulty imagining that there are mischievous adults who could lie to gain their trust. Moreover, children are exposed to the risks of the Internet and social networks as early as the primary stage. Most of them play, chat and watch videos online (Fortnite and Youtube), sometimes without any parental supervision.
At the middle school level, the use of social networks and chat groups via instant messaging or private servers (WhatsApp, Discord, Twitch) increases the risk of exposure to pornography but also cyberbullying, especially of a sexual nature. Young people can also sometimes expose their friends by sharing photos or personal information without their consent.
We educate them about good digital practices to protect their privacy and the importance of discussing ahead what they do on the Internet with their parents.
3- Teachers and parents not sufficiently informed about cybercrime impacting young’s
In this second lockdown, when we still continue to intervene in schools, children frequently reveal violence, often within their own homes where instead they should find love and protection.
This may have raised the awareness of some teachers about their role in prevention. However, teachers sometimes feel they are overwhelmed and are not correctly equipped to accompany children or detect violence in their speeches. In response to these needs, we have developed educational tools and a training module for school supervisors to help them better protect children.
Finally, we see that more and more children are talking to strangers and putting themselves in danger on the Internet or social networks as early as first or second grade! When children explain that they have already received requests for photos / personal information / meetings / sexual solicitations from adults, teachers are often very surprised and appalled at the dangers to which their (very young) pupils are exposed. The majority of parents are also unaware of the risks their children are taking by going online or playing video games.
That is why we design educational clips for parents to inform and support them in their role of accompanying their children in their digital practices. They will allow the family to dialogue with an adapted discourse and in a playful way about the risks and resources 2.0.
4- Our recommendations
One year ago, the Secretary of State for Children and Families, Mr. Adrien Taquet, unveiled the government’s 2020-2022 strategy against violence on children. One of the measures was to reinforce the prevention action of the associative sector to raise awareness among children in schools and to train their supervisors. This is precisely the purpose of our interventions, which respond to the request of public Authorities but also to the aspirations of civil society.
To increase the awareness of children and supervisors, but also parents and the general public, especially against cyber-crime impacting children, our recommendations are as follows:
- Make mandatory information and prevention sessions on the CRC(The International Convention on the Rights of the Child) (LINK: https://www.cameleon-association.org/2019/11/20/cide-et-droits-enfant/) in schools and extracurricular activities so that children know their rights and are better protected against violence.
- Mandatory moderation of virtual spaces for young people with trained referents on cyber-violence issues and support for prevention programs by young people themselves.
- National campaigns (TV, social networks, press, radio…) and communication tools to raise awareness among the general public, parents and young people on children’s rights, violence against children and cybercrime.
Have a look onto all our demands here