TikTok clampdown in Jamaica

THE rapid increase in the number of TikTok videos featuring Jamaican children has drawn the attention of Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison, who says her office will be moving to clamp down on parents and children involved in what is most times slack and improper content.

Gordon Harrison says her office has an increase in the number of videos and will be taking steps to first identify the children and then conduct social enquiries into their home situation to determine what is fuelling the increase in age-inappropriate content, and when there is need for criminal prosecution.

“I believe there has been a proliferation of these videos in recent times. But, I believe that, first of all, we need to identify where these children are,” Gordon Harrison told a meeting of over 100 viewers following yesterday’s lunchtime series, ‘Human Trafficking of Children’, which had Gordon Harrison as its guest and the Lay Magistrates’ Association of Jamaica as host.

She was responding to a question from a guest who wanted to know how parents can deal with TikTok’s videos featuring “toddlers demonstrating intimacy such as passionate kissing”.

“It is very critical, because what it tells us is that, perhaps, there is a superficial issue at home. Where are these children seeing these things, firstly, and secondly, why are they recording themselves, and thirdly, what are the interventions that are taking place within the space at home?” she asked.

Gordon Harrison said that a care and protection policy, including interviews with the parents, will decide whether there is need for an enquiry.

“Once that is done there is a conversation that has to take place with the parents, and usually it is that conversation which leads to more information on things that are really needed to be done and that are desirable to ensure that these children are being cared for,” she said.

“It can end up before the court for what we call a care and prevention enquiry, which would involve a home assessment interview and interviews to determine the type of parenting because, for those matters, when you have especially children involved, those are criminal matters. Those are matters where there is a supervision issue that needs to be checked, verified, and possibly reviewed,” she added.

Gordon Harrison was also confronted with a question as to whether there is “organ harvesting” in Jamaica, which could also include children. She said that there was no evidence of that type of behaviour, but there exists a possibility.

“So far, we have not identified any home-grown cases of organ harvesting. It is very possible, however, because we do have Jamaicans who traffic outside Jamaica and end up in all sorts of countries, and once they get to the location, depending on the demand in the market, they could, in fact, find themselves in that situation. But, we have no identifiable case that we have seen organ harvesting manifested in Jamaica at this time,” she explained.

TikTok has developed a bad reputation for hosting dangerous viral “challenges” on its app, which are said to, at their worst, lead to serious injury or death. Its online opponents says that, beneath the surface, the app also hosts videos promoting anorexia, bullying, suicide and sexual exploitation of minors, which both feature minors and are watched by them.

During her presentation the Children’s Advocate dealt with a number of issues confronting her office in terms of child trafficking. Child trafficking can be defined as any person under 18 who is illegally recruited, transported, transferred, harboured, or received by threats, force, and coercion or inducing fear for the purpose of exploitation, either within or outside a country.

Meanwhile, Betty Ann Blaine, founder of non-governmental organisation Hear the Children’s Cry, described laws created to protect children as “toothless” and called for the relevant agencies to better enforce these legislation.

“We have a child pornography law and every couple weeks I get videos that include child porn, and some of them go viral and yet we have the legislation that says it is a crime,” Blaine said.

She added: “The question you have to ask is, if we are investigating these crimes, how is it that people believe they can film this, circulate it, and nothing happens to them? What is the point of having these laws that look good on paper, but we are not enforcing them? We have some toothless laws.”

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