The Internet and related digital technologies have opened new ways for children to communicate, learn, and play, enjoy music, and engage in a vast array of cultural, educational, and skill-enhancing activities. Yet, they have also exposed them to a range of content, contact, and harmful conduct online.
The behavior of offenders and criminal networks is constantly evolving, and this is observed to have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with offenders taking advantage of the new reality of many children being online far more than usual.
“It is therefore imperative that child protection systems evolve as fast or even faster,” says Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children.
Therefore, ITU believes that a worldwide and cross-border problem requires a multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral and child-rights centered approach that brings all key actors, including children, together to ensure that a stronger and proactive child protection is established online.
Bearing these in mind, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), today, launched its new 2020 Guidelines on Child Online Protection (COP), a comprehensive set of recommendations for children, parents and educators, industry and policymakers on how to contribute to the development of a safe and empowering online environment for children and young people.
The 2020 COP Guidelines has been co-authored by ITU and a working group of contributing authors from other institutions active in the ICT sector, as well as in child (online) protection issues.
Elaborating more, ITU says it has re-designed the new guidelines from the ground up to reflect the significant shifts in the digital landscape in which children find themselves, such as the Internet of Things, connected toys, online gaming, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
In addition, this new edition by ITU addresses an important lacuna: the situation faced by children with disabilities, for whom the online world offers a particularly crucial lifeline to full and fulfilling social participation. Consideration of the special needs of migrant children and other vulnerable groups has also been included.
The new COP Guidelines are designed to serve as a blueprint that can be adapted and used by different countries and stakeholders in a way that is consistent with national and local customs and laws,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “They can be considered as an initial step in engaging all relevant stakeholders – governments, the private sector, parents and teachers’ associations, and children themselves – in discussions around targeted measures and actions to create a safer online environment.”
The guidelines for children are available in a child-friendly format and they consist of three resources: a storybook for children under nine, a workbook for children aged 9 to 11, and a social media campaign and microsite for children and young people aged 12 to 18. These resources help children learn how to manage risks online, while at the same time empowering them to exercise their rights online and engage in opportunities that the Internet presents to them.
WCF CyberSmart Portal for Indian children
The NYSE-listed Business Process Management (BPM) services company WNS (Holdings) Limited through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm WNS Cares Foundation (WCF) today launched a CyberSmart portal by Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India.
WCF says its CyberSmart (cybersmart.wnscaresfoundation.org) is a holistic cybersafety learning ecosystem for education & empowerment of students, teachers, volunteers and parents that is supported by NASSCOM.
WCF has designed CyberSmart as a free-for-all gamified learning platform that uses thematic quiz-based modules. The portal offers age-appropriate learning journeys that are based on curriculum advisories and challenges that children commonly encounter in cyberspace.
The platform also offers a host of features that makes learning immersive and engaging for children, and covers a bandwidth of 50,000 concurrent users, without capturing any personal data. A key feature of the portal is a ‘call for help’ button for children under duress. The portal also enables parents and teachers to impart cybersecurity education using a unique online and offline methodology.
“As millions of children across the nation are increasingly accessing the internet for online learning due to COVID, I am sure the deployment and adoption of smarter cybersecurity measures like CyberSmart is the need of the hour. This portal is very much in line with our mission to create safe cyber environment for every citizen of the country, especially our children and youth. I am delighted to partner and launch CyberSmart portal on a national level,” commented Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, MeitY, Government of India, while inaugurating the program.
Debjani Ghosh, President of NASSCOM in her comments has said that this resource is sure to benefit parents and teachers as much as it will impact students in learning about traversing cyberspace purposefully, during and post COVID-19 world.
According to Shamini Murugesh, Honorary Chief Mentor, WCF said the CyberSmart platform is currently available in four languages- English, Hindi, Marathi & Telugu, and soon, it will be available in five more regional languages.