Technological innovation has advanced in unprecedented ways over the past decade. Digital and mobile technology when used safely can give children and adolescents the chance to make a difference and voice their concerns in schools, communities and countries. With the right tools and information young people are better placed to access opportunities for healthcare, education and employment.
UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) have been closely collaborating on two specific work streams giving children and youth a voice in a digital era: the Global Youth Summit: BYND 2015 and the draft Child Online Protection (COP) Guidelines.
Global Youth Summit: BYND 2015
ITU organized the Global Youth Summit: BYND 2015 in September 2013, in Costa Rica. The purpose was to convene young people, both online and offline, to participate in a discussion on the use of technology for social good while seeking to prioritize ICT inclusion as a central pillar of the post 2015 development agenda. The Summit served as a platform for young people to express their opinions and influence decisions at the United Nations and help shape the post-2015 development agenda.
Along with some 700 participants that physically attended the meeting in Costa Rica, more than 3000 young people around the world participated virtually from 43 hubs in 25 different countries to contribute their ideas using a unique crowd-sourcing platform and other social media channels.
Despite the profound benefits technology has to offer, children and young people can face a number of risks while using ICTs. In order for young people to actively participate in the world around them in the digital era, it is critical that they are able to take full advantage of the unprecedented opportunities afforded by ICTs and proactively manage any risks they encounter online. For this very reason UNICEF, ITU and The Walt Disney Company Disney hosted the BE SMART BE SAFE track, which specifically addressed four key themes: 1) cyber bullying, 2) self-exposure, 3) online reputation/grooming, and 4) online privacy.
In addition, ITU, UNICEF Voices of Youth and Mastercard hosted a Global Video Competition to invite youth to submit a concept for a video film that seeks to raise awareness on safe and responsible online behaviour amongst their peers as they surf the web. The winning concept will be used by UNICEF and ITU as part of a global campaign on Internet safety.
Finally, at the end of the Summit, the young participants defined child online safety as a priority, which was highlighted in the Beyond 2015 Global Youth Declaration presented by President Chinchilla of Costa Rica at the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2013.
The draft Child Online Protection (COP) Guidelines
UNICEF and ITU are working with a number of partners including with businesses and other UN agencies to help place children’s rights at the heart of their operations and to both protect and promote children and youth when using technology.
The ITU Child Online Protection (COP) (http://www.itu.int/osg/csd/cybersecurity/gca/cop/) is a multi-stakeholder initiative to promote awareness of the importance of child safety in the online world and to develop practical tools to assist governments, industry and educators in this domain. As part of the initiative, a set of Child Online Protection Guidelines has been prepared by ITU in collaboration with the COP partners for the following stakeholder groups: Children, Parents, Guardians and Educators, Industry, Policy Makers.
The current “Guidelines for Industry on Child Online Protection” (COP) were introduced four years ago and the need for an updated and broader set of guidelines has been evident for some time due to substantial advances in technology, convergence and regulation.
The review process to update the current COP Guidelines for Industry was initiated in early 2013 by the COP members together with UNICEF and ITU taking lead in editing, co-ordination and consultation. The draft Guidelines have been developed through an initial consultation of the ITU COP members and are intended to be more aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and also reflect the specific issues related to ICT sub-sectors. They are now open for broader consultation until 20 December 2013 to engage diverse audiences across all regions: http://www.business-humanrights.org/Documents/itu-unicef-ict-guidelines-consultation
Such initiatives not only contribute to providing both the tools and a safer framework to help voice out children and youth’s needs and concerns, but also give them a chance to make a difference.
This post originally appeared as part of the Guardian’s “Giving Children a Voice in Business” feature.