The session was moderated by Ms Madiana Asseraf (Head, Business Development & Young Audiences, European Broadcasting Union). She started by explaining that the Internet provides a growing number of opportunities, ranging from learning, to communication, creativity, and entertainment. But it also opens up certain risks to vulnerable users such as children. However, she added, the Internet is still a great tool for development. She pointed out the Child Online Protection Initiative (COP), launched by ITU in November 2008, as a multistakeholder effort within the Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) framework. In addition, she noted that the European Commission also co-funds Safer Internet Centres in member states (co-ordinated by Insafe), with the Better Internet for Kids portal that endeavours to raise awareness and provides a hotline for victims of online abuse.
Mr Jiri Průša (Programme Coordinator, CZ.NIC Association, Czech Republic) explained his work with CZ.NIC, an non-profit organisation established by leading ISPs in 1998 with 115 members. They are doing management and operation of the national.cz Internet domain. He asked what children do on the Internet. According to him, the most popular social media for children are Instagram and YouTube. Children watch video content about sports, news, games, etc. Therefore, he said that for children ‘video is king’. What does it mean for us? He added that we need to reuse and connect as a methodology for teachers and social workers. He noted the importance of videos during seminars for children and youngsters.
Furthermore, Průša spoke of digital training for teachers and social workers. He talked about his experience in certain African countries where he taught digital literacy through a Memory Game, using pictures, explanatory dictionary written in a non-technical language that is easy to understand, printed-out, and online. Finally, he noted the importance of the rising awareness of parents to protect their children from online attacks.
Ms June Lowery-Kingston (Head of Unit, European Commission – DG CNECT (remotely)) talked about accessibility, digital languages barriers, and the increase of digital devices for children. She noted the opportunities of devices in education, health, gaming, etc. However, she highlighted the challenges of this digital era such as sexual harassment, data protection, a safe digital environment, and better Internet for children as an EU project.
Moreover, Lowery-Kingston explained the tools of a good and safe Internet for children: financial support on national levels, collaboration and co-operation in digital learning and training, and protecting regulations on children’s rights. She talked about the main EU online safety portal for children and children’s rights in the EU. Furthermore, she spoke of meetings held with colleagues from international organisations dealing with children’s online issues and problems. According to her, children need to be protected online. The digital literacy is a key point in developing children’s critical capacity in using the Internet.
Answering a question from the moderator, she said that there is a problem of how data affects children and how they are using the Internet. She added the need of commitment both the on the national level, and an EU level. In conclusion, she emphasised the huge role of parents and teachers in implementing digital policies regarding the protection of children online.
Ms Maija Katkovska (Head, Safer Internet Centre, Latvia) explained the main tasks of the Safer Internet Centre such as to inform and educate children, teachers and parents about a safer and better use of the Internet, developing their media literacy skills to ensure the work of helplines, and the work of a hotline where anyone can report illegal and harmful online content in co-operation with the state police. She mentioned the role of the local government and gave the example of educational activities that include online diagnostic tests. According to her, it is important to know about behaviours related to online safety, media literacy, and critical thinking.
She highlighted the European Safer Internet Centres (SIC) network with 30 Safer Internet Centres, the European Youth Panel, and the celebration of Worldwide Safer Internet Day. She concluded by saying that the main benefit would be to circulate information on urgent and alarming tendencies and cases, and to share best practices, advice and solutions.
Mr Andero Sepp (Webconstable, Estonia (remotely)) talked about the Estonian digital experience and the work of the Estonian police regarding social media platforms. He also emphasised the importance of educating parents on the child protection help plan in his country. Finally, he mentioned the case of sexual harassment online, privacy, and their negative impact on children’s rights.
Mr Jovan Kurbalija (Executive Director, UNSG High Level Panel on Digital Co-operation) reflected on the international co-operation on child online protection. Therefore, he said that there are major differences on the international level, particularly in developing countries. He emphasised the work of high-level panel on this global digital issue.
Moreover, Kurbalija pointed out the importance of transferring knowledge to the next generation. He explained the role of making and analysing data in order to prepare the future digital environment for supporting children’s rights. In addition, he underlined the digital identity issue in Africa and other developing regions. Finally, he explained that there is a lack of attention, empathy and understanding children regarding their online problems.
By Gilles D. Bana