The Internet can open a world of possibilities for today’s youth. It supports access to education in rural areas, and enables social interactions with friends and relatives. But, dangers persist. Cyberbullying and privacy remain top challenges for keeping children safe online. For example, one out of every four teenagers has experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes and about one out of every six teenagers has done it to others, according to a study Cyberbullying Research Center study.
Seeing the need for a global approach, ITU launched the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, an international collaborative network that works to promote online safety of children around the world.
Today, COP members include nation states as well as a number of international organisations and private corporations, such as: Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative (CCI); European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme; International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); GSM Association (GSMA); Microsoft; Telecom Italia; Trend Micro; The Walt Disney Company.
A lot has been achieved since the initiative was launched in 2008.
Guidelines for Child Online Protection were prepared by ITU in collaboration with COP partners for: children; parents, guardians and educators; industry; and policymakers. These guidelines help to establish the necessary foundation for a safer and more secure cyber world for future generations.
The COP National Survey identifies the scope of policies and frameworks for child online protection at a national level in over 100 countries around the world.
At the COP Strategy Framework Workshop in Zambia, for example, participants drafted recommendations on technical, legal, and capacity building issues which were embodied in Zambia’s National Strategy on COP. Following its successful implementation, the government launched additional initiatives to protect children against cyber risks and violence including training 150 school teachers about COP and allocated an emergency short code to mobile operators for COP messages.
“But change has been slow and we need to progress fast,” says ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao. “Join us to be the change and ensure every child has access to the benefits of ICTs, ensure their security and safety online, put policies and education in place to give today’s youth the critical skills necessary to navigate our 24/7 world successfully.”