Pornographic material circulates in WhatsApp groups


Unbeknownst, creating WhatsApp groups has become a significant necessity in daily life.

Under any circumstances, WhatsApp groups are created supposedly to facilitate certain matters or group discussions.

However, it cannot be denied that the emergence of WhatsApp groups can unexpectedly lead to the occurrence of negative consequences.

In simple terms, social media has a dark side that can bring destruction to certain individuals.

This happened in North Bromsgrove, a small town in Worcestershire, England, near the southwest of the city centre of Birmingham, which has a population of 34,755 according to the 2021 census.

Recently, two prominent BBC News journalists, Oprah Flash and Ben Godfrey, reported a warning to a secondary school and Sixth Form College in North Bromsgrove about the spread of pornographic videos among students in a WhatsApp group known as ‘Add People.’

The West Mercia Police later confirmed that nearly 200 students were added to the ‘Add People’ group.

The police also suggested the possibility of pornographic images being circulated to students through ‘Add People’.

It is understood that the West Mercia Police have asked parents to monitor their children’s mobile phones as it is believed that the exchange of pornographic images is occurring in ‘Add People’.

It is quite disturbing to learn that some members of the group are only nine years old.

Certainly, nine-year-old students are not capable of understanding the negative effects of viewing pornographic materials or videos.

According to BBC News reports, several police officers have visited and investigated several schools in the area to raise awareness among parents and students about the importance of the ‘stay safe online’ programme.

I believe that this phenomenon occurs in most places around the world, including Malaysia.

During my tenure as the Faculty of Engineering at Selangor University (Unisel) Dean, I was grappling with the issue of female students addicted to watching pornographic videos to the extent that it disrupted their learning.

I believe that at this ‘critical age’, there is a possibility that these female students could fall into the trap of fornication.

The act of ‘licentiousness’ has been mentioned by Allah SWT in Surah Al Israa’ [17:32] which means, “And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.”

Similarly, the reminder from Allah in Surah Al-Mukminun [23:5-7] which means, “And they who guard their private parts. Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed – But whoever seeks beyond that, then they are the transgressors.”

I tried to find data on the number of children under 12 years old accessing the internet and social media globally but did not find the exact figures.

A 2022 report by Ofcom, the British communication regulator, revealed that a large percentage of children under 12 frequently browse the internet.

The report revealed the percentage of children aged 8-11 who browse TikTok and YouTube is significantly higher compared to the over 13 age group.

BBC News later revealed that a group of parents in Bromsgrove urged the British government to ban mobile phones for children.

Previously, there were efforts to create special mobile phones for teenagers under 16 to prevent the spread of pornographic materials and videos.

This writer was somewhat concerned to find that the Ofcom 2022 Report confirmed that children aged five to seven spend an average of 17 minutes a day online, while children aged eight to 11 spend an hour and 16 minutes.

The Common Sense Media’s 2021 report in the United States (US) also showed that children aged 8-12 spend an average of 6 hours and 48 minutes each day glued to their mobile phone screens.

Imagine the destruction that could befall the members of the ‘Add People’ WhatsApp group if they receive pornographic materials or videos every day. Literally, the internet offers a vast source for ‘learning and exploration’. However, dangerous consequences may arise if children receive pornographic materials or videos. I believe that this scenario could damage the emotional well-being of children.

Indirectly, it leads to addiction to browsing the internet, thus damaging the formation of children’s identities. Therefore, I suggest that parents always monitor their children’s mobile phones to prevent a Bromsgrove-like tragedy from happening in our country.

In conclusion, social media technology can have a stimulating effect if used properly by children. However, it has negative impacts if they access pornographic materials or videos!

* Dr Ir Muhidin Arifin is the Chief Operating Officer of the Selangor Technical Skills Development Centre (STDC).

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Date : 2024-03-09 04:00:00

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