Thursday 25th April 2019-TATTE Apia Samoa.
Justice Leilani Tuala-Warren offers advice to the Samoa’s youth as a guest speaker at this year’s Girls in ICT conference.
By Justice Leinlani Tuala-Warren.
Good morning and Talofa future Regulators, future Judges, future engineers and future leaders of Samoa.
It is an absolute honour to be speaking to you today on the wider theme of safer internet.
You were probably all born into an age where your births and milestones in your lives were celebrated over facebook.
Myself and probably your parents were around before fb started, and it was wonderful to see the advent of social media…You connect with friends and families, you update people on what you are doing what you are eating and what you are wearing on a daily basis, you are informed about what is happening around the world-these are all great and wonderful things……until you become a either a victim of cyber bullying or stalking! I bring this up because as future leaders you should be aware of the dangers that are associated with this wonderful invention known as the internet.. There is a dark side, which perhaps not many of you have experienced yet!
But awareness is key and it is important that there is awareness about the darker and more sinister side of the internet.
As I am speaking to future leaders of this country and future leaders in the industry of IT, you should know about the impact the internet has on crime. While there are no statistics to show this impact, I can tell you that some very sad and tragic cases have come before the court when the internet is not monitored and used appropriately in an age specific way.
I will give a few examples of what I have seen in Court.
One is the case of an uncle who had been watching sexual material on his phone, and ended up dragging and sexually assaulting his 11 year old niece in the bushes beside her home on her way back from the shop.
There is the case of a young 11 year old boy who late one night had been watching sexual material on his phone. His two younger sisters were sleeping in the same room. Because of what he had seen and the curiosity which a child naturally has, he decided to try what he had seen on his 9 year old sister. This was a sad situation for the boy, the young sister, and his parents.
His parents when in Court had said that prior to this happening, they had been very proud that their children knew how to operate phones, as they themselves grew up in an era where there were no cellphones and now that they do have cellphones they just use it to make and receive calls. Most of us parents are like that. We are proud when our children seem to be technologically savvy or switched on when they use phones or computers or ipads. What we then neglect is the monitoring to ensure that our children are accessing age appropriate material. Sadly for this family, they learnt the hard way the dangers of unlimited and unrestricted internet use by children, they ended up with two traumatized children who will have to carry this trauma for the rest of their lives.
There is also the possibility of meeting someone online and being pressured into meeting them in person which leads to a sexual encounter. This happened in the case of a 24 year old man who saw a 13 year old at a fashion show, started to chat with her online, coerced her into meeting him at a hotel during school hours and forced her into having sex with him. It is a crime with a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment to use technology to propose to a child to meet him or her with the intent of committing a crime on that child.
Together with the influence the internet brings which can sometimes lead to crime, is cyber stalking, and cyber bullying. This is when people use fake names to bully you and/ or stalk you on the internet through social media. It is very real, it is very disturbing and can lead some to depression. It is much easier to defend yourself against someone who is standing before you saying something to you, then it is to defend yourself to an anonymous person attacking you on social media. I ask that you never engage in that, if you want to say something to someone, have the courage to say it to them using your real name.
I can say to you that if you have experienced cyber bullying or cyber stalking or if anything that is done or said to you on the internet makes you feel uncomfortable, you must speak to someone. You cannot handle it alone, you don’t have to handle it alone. Your parents may not be good at using their phones, but I guarantee your protection is very very important to them. If you are not comfortable speaking to your parents, another adult or your best friend will do, speak to them.
Can I also remind you about something equally important. As much as we have regulation of the internet to make it a safer forum, you are also responsible for your online behavior. You must ensure that you are not the instigators of cyber bullying of others, circulation of photos which you have taken which you have not been given consent to take, and stalking or making someone else’s life miserable by what you do and say online. You must carefully consider how your online behavior may make others feel. When you have made a spur of the moment comment which goes to your whole class online, or you have called someone names online…these seemingly everyday occurrences in the life of a teenage can have a huge impact on someone else’s life. It is a crime with a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment to harass or intimidate or cause emotional distress to someone using electronic technology.
I am certain many of you have watched series or movies where these themes have emerged, like 13 reasons. I watched it in preparation for today, and while that is an extreme example of how online actions can influence a person’s life, we must nevertheless be awake to the real possibility that the person sitting next to you right now, is experiencing some of those issues. The key I believe to assessing your online behavior is to ask yourself before you press that send button, if I was the recipient of this comment or this photo, how would I feel? If you take that half a second to think about that, I believe that most of the nastiness and hurtfulness which can be done online, will disappear. The change to how we use the internet must come from you. So even with no or minimum regulation, internet etiquette begins with you, our future leaders. It is not just adults engaged in cyber bullying and cyber stalking it is also children and teenagers who have access to a phone and to some data.
So who controls online behaviour? How can we eliminate this bad online behavior? China has banned facebook and social media. There are apps which parents can use to monitor your internet usage which while well used overseas, I have spoken to only one parent in this country who uses it with his children.
I do not know the answer as I am not an engineer or the Regulator or a technician, and I am not Bluesky or Digicel and I am not an expert in the area, but from a parent’s perspective, something has to be done by the leaders in the industry. this is an area which I believe needs attention. It is for the protection of you, the children of Samoa, who are our most precious citizens, you who will guide this country into the next generation and you who will be extremely technologically smart, as opposed to someone like me! It is important that your experience with the internet remains a positive one, and will have a positive influence on you when you become an adult.
As a Judge if we do not address these issues now, we will see an increase in crime as a result of an unsafe internet. Now is the time to do something.
I thank the Office of the Regulator and Madam Regulator for the awareness they have started through advertisements on television. Children will be children, it is for those who provide internet services and our government agencies to work together to ensure children are not at risk. It is in working together that I believe these issues can be tackled. Today is a prime example of the awareness that needs to take place in our society. Awareness is not just for children, or teenagers or just for adults, the whole of society should be targeted for awareness, and I am honoured to be a very small part of this very critical step towards a safer internet.
In conclusion, I thank you for your attention, I hope that some of what I have said will resonate with some of you. I continue to be in awe of how technologically knowledgeable you young people are nowadays. But with that great knowledge comes great responsibility. Do enjoy the internet responsibly!!!
Faafetai and God bless.