With the rapid advancement of Internet penetration across the world and the borderless nature of cyberspace, the ‘Internet and digital addiction’ are becoming a global challenge. This phenomenon is magnified by the unstoppable integration of social media into every aspect of our daily lives. This factor, coupled with the alluring nature of the ever-expanding digital entertainment industry, particularly exposes vulnerable and impressionable children and young adults around the world, who fearlessly engage with the digital ecosystem.
The consequences of this extraordinary situation are leaving governments, businesses, institutions, communities and families at a disadvantage to holistically understand and address the rapidly evolving challenges from the dynamic effects of social media and exposure to cyber predators.
This session tried to discuss the signs, symptoms, consequences, and actions that need to be taken to harness and address the growing challenges of Internet addiction and exposure on young, vulnerable minds.
Mr Abdelaziz Al Zarooni (UAE Telecom Regulatory Authority and Chair Child Online Protection) spoke about an initiative they introduced that takes inspiration from the older cultural sitting where a groups of children/youth discuss life lessons from senior community members and others to the shared community-level initiatives to guide youth and teach them cultural values and ICT abuses. However, here is a lot more that can be done among the governments, parents and social scientists that need to interact and think of the topics that need to be studied with respect to the youth.
Drawing lessons from the UK’s Green Cross Code, it is necessary to realise how to put the message out so that it is not lost in the process. Dr Konstantinos Karachalios (MD. Standards Association IEEE) said that they are working closely with the UK government and are learning lessons from their bold moves. Karachalios pointed out the three areas of work they are beginning to work on. First, financial privacy pertaining metadata and how to set a minimum requirement. Second, about the data collected by children stories and other IoT devices. Third, data collected in future realities that compromise their privacy. They are working together with a consortium for children and also sign a memorandum with the UNICEF, that is very interested and can see the value in this project. They are also working on a fair trade data working scheme.
Dr Salma Abbasi (Chairman and CEO, eWORLDWIDE GROUP) seconded Karachalios’s views and said that the UK really had the courage by taking down the content related to the New Zealand killings, footage that would influence Indian elections even at the cost of upsetting certain stakeholders. She believes that such power should be encouraged and IEEE should push governments to regulate global platforms. For instance, if on the Dark Web pornography is sold for 12 pounds, and we know about it, how are we not finding out and hold those accountable, asked Abbasi.
’It is about really working together’, asserted Ms Licciardello Carla (Policy analyst ITU). While we are talking about the multistakeholder process, at the local and regional level it does not really always happen. So there is a need not just to think of what to do but also about how to collaborate and find adequate funding resources to keep the fight going.
The effective use of child advocates spreading values of too much use of the Internet and also work with mothers who are closest to children in order to reinstall some values is an effective way. Another on-ground initiative is the reach of the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and the developing guidelines in collaboration with other stakeholders to make sure they are all on the same page. Similarly, the power of peers, siblings, should be tapped into even more. Zarooni added on these lines they are testing out a buddy system to create material on information security and teach their fellow students at their school.
By Mili Semlani