What you need to know:
- The internet has increased access to information, offering children and young people the ability to research almost any subject of interest.
- Industry players can develop tools or age-verification systems or that monitor children’s online contacts.
- Reporting need to be followed up appropriately, with timely reporting.
The proliferation of internet access points, mobile technology and the array of internet-enabled devices, and the immense resources in cyberspace, provide unprecedented opportunities to learn, share and communicate.
As families leverage on the internet to seek information and assistance and report incidents of abuse, the technology can protect them from violence and exploitation.
The internet has increased access to information, offering children and young people the ability to research almost any subject of interest, access worldwide media, pursue vocational prospects and harness ideas for the future.
On the flip side, children are prone to online risks like exposure to inappropriate content or contact, including cyberbullying. They can suffer reputational damage from publishing personal information online or through ‘sexting’ for lack of comprehension on the implications of digital footprints and face risks related to online privacy in terms of collection and usage of data and location information.
This implies that the internet is an unnecessary evil, creating an opportunity for industry, government and civil society to collaborate and establish safety principles and practices.
Industry players can develop tools or age-verification systems or that monitor children’s online contacts, in addition to the content that they access.
The government ought to develop standardised policies that stipulate acceptable online behaviour for both adults and children and point out unacceptable activities, underlining the consequences of any breach.
Reporting need to be followed up appropriately, with timely reporting. Online content and service providers can also describe the nature of content or services they provide and the intended target age range.
This should be aligned with pre-existing national and international standards, relevant regulations and advice on marketing and advertising to children from the appropriate classification bodies.
But the growing range of interactive services that enable publication of user-generated content, for example via message boards, impedes the classification and raises the security concerns of children.
On a long-term strategy, technical measures can be an important part of ensuring that children are protected from the potential online risks.
Parental control tools and awareness campaigns are key to empowering children, parents, caregivers and educators on child online safety. Besides, private and public entities can facilitate positive experiences by developing content for children that is entertaining, educative and accessible on mobile.
Industry players can join forces with government institutions and educators to strengthen parents’ abilities to support children to behave as responsible digital citizens.
The government and the private sector can, proactively, support children by working to close the digital divide. Children’s participation requires digital literacy — the ability to understand and participate in the digital world.