Neglect continues to be the number one form of child abuse in Barbados.
However, officials of the Child Care Board (CCB) today expressed worry over a creeping trend of cyber bullying, as well as of minors having sex with each other.
Speaking during a media sensitization workshop at the Accra Beach Hotel on the topic Ethical Guidelines for Reporting on Children, Senior Child Care Officer Delvina Waithe explained that with the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of smart phones and other technological devices, the CCB had been receiving reports of cyber bullying.
This form of abuse, she said, was resulting in children becoming “depressed [and] isolated with threats of self-harm including suicide, among other variables”.
“The issue of minor-on-minor inappropriate sexual conduct is also of some concern to the Board, especially at the primary school level. And as we noted that much of these behaviours stem from poor examples in the immediate families or other sexual behaviours which they are exposed to in the community, including the various forms of media,” she added.
Giving an overview of child abuse in Barbados on Thursday, Waithe told reporters that on average over 1,000 cases of child abuse were reported each year for the past five years, with half of these being cases of neglect, occurring mostly in the five to 11 age category.
While explaining that the major form of neglect was lack of supervision, Waithe said there were also instances of deprivation of food, clothing and shelter, and denial of medical, financial and emotional attention.
“All this however, does not diminish the more serious reality of the physical and sexual abuse of our children. It must be understood, moreover, that all forms of abuse carry with it the immediate and longer-term effect of emotional and psychological stress on the child,” she warned, while pointing out that sexual abuse was highest among the 12-16 age group, with girls being the main victims.
Abandonment was the lowest form of child abuse reported. However, Waithe said the CCB was being proactive in its approach to the scourge and was placing emphasis on community education and training, given the need for a change in domestic mindsets.
For instance, she said there were still many people who subscribed to the view that “harsh physical and emotional punishment must be used as a means of instilling discipline in the child”.
It was also suggested that the poor were “more susceptible to be abusive to their children because of the additional stresses that they face”.