Nº 5 2012 > Protecting children online

Protecting children online

Responding to a global challenge

Protecting children online Protecting children online From left to right: Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau; Houlin Zhao, Deputy Secretary-General of ITU; Laura Chinc
From left to right: Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau; Houlin Zhao, Deputy Secretary-General of ITU; Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica’'s President;
Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of ITU; and Malcolm Johnson, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau


Within the framework of its Global Cybersecurity Agenda, the ITU’s Child Online Protection (COP) initiative was established in November 2008 as an international collaborative network for action to promote the online protection of children worldwide. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognized the timely nature of ITU’s action, saying “I welcome the ITU’s Child Online Protection initiative and I urge all States to support it.”

The Child Online Protection initiative brings together partners from all sectors of the international community with the aim of creating a safe and secure online experience for children everywhere. In 2009, a multistakeholder group of Child Online Protection members developed global guidelines for children, parents, governments and industry.

ITU is now well into the second phase of its activities under the Child Online Protection global initiative, launched by ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré in November 2010 together with the Patron of Child Online Protection, Costa Rica’s President Laura Chinchilla Miranda. “Individual rights without the fulfilment of duties causes cracks in society. Democracy without responsibility undermines freedom”, says President Chinchilla. The President has pledged to ensure that children and youth will be digital citizens, with rights and responsibilities. In 2013, Costa Rica plans to host the first World Conference on Youth and ICT, and one of the main topics of the global discussion will be related to protecting children online.

Resolution 179 (Guadalajara, 2010) encourages ITU to continue its Child Online Protection initiative as a platform to raise awareness and educate people on the dangers of cyberspace. It also requests the ITU Council to continue its Council Working Group on Child Online Protection. It encourages the ITU Secretary-General to coordinate ITU activities with other initiatives at the national, regional and international levels, as well as bringing this resolution to the attention of the United Nations Secretary-General with the aim of increasing the commitment of the United Nations system to protecting children online.

Knowledge gaps

ITU’s publication Child Online Protection — Statistical Framework and Indicators 2010 classifies those who play a role in child online protection: children, parents and guardians, educators, governments, industry and other actors such as academia, and non-governmental or international organizations.

Perpetrators are not defined, and will vary depending on the type of threat they pose. In cases of sexual solicitation, perpetrators will generally be individuals (or networks of like-minded individuals). In cases of consumer fraud, they may be individuals or businesses. Individuals will vary with age, gender and socio-economic status. For some online threats, such as bullying and harassment, children themselves are often the main perpetrators.

“Globally, children and young people tend to become early users and prime innovators on the Internet, and are often far ahead of their parents and other adults in terms of use, skills and understanding. The Internet, particularly social networking and other interactive media, provides new forms of social space globally, which did not exist when most contemporary parents were themselves children. Young people in all societies today are pioneers, occupying online spaces in ways that adults often cannot imagine. These spaces can be immensely creative, but can also expose children to dangers adults may in many instances only dimly perceive,” according to UNICEF’s report Child Safety Online: Global Challenges and Strategies.

The UNICEF report admits that “There are many knowledge gaps about the protection challenges raised by the Internet, particularly in parts of the world where its penetration is so far more limited.” Obvious danger areas include images of child sex abuse (pornography), the grooming of children for sex, and cyberbullying.

Raising awareness

ITU has been recruiting special envoys, a group of prominent individuals willing to contribute to its efforts to raise awareness of the objectives and priorities of protecting children online, and to do their utmost to support children’s online safety. Deborah Taylor Tate, a former commissioner of the United States Federal Communications Commission and 2009 World Information and Telecommunication Society Day Laureate, is ITU’s Special Envoy for Child Online Protection.

Recently, ITU drafted a “Child Online Protection National Strategy Guide”. This guide will serve as a model for developing national strategies that mitigate online risks to children. And it is part of ITU’s effort to assist its Member States to take a holistic and comprehensive approach to building national frameworks that will protect children online.

An online platform has been created within ITU-IMPACT ESCAPE to facilitate the work of members and promote the exchange of knowledge, information, activities and outcomes among partners. And Study Group 17 of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T) has established a Joint Coordination Activity on Child Online Protection, following on from research carried out by a correspondence group in that area.

In its continuing mission to raise awareness of matters related to protecting children online, ITU organized a workshop for the Arab region on policy, advocacy and capacity building in child online protection. The workshop, which was held in Muscat, Oman, on 30–31 October 2011, adopted recommendations as a basis for building national frameworks for the Arab countries to protect children online.

In February 2012, ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D) started to develop a national case study in Costa Rica, to demonstrate best practices. The aim is to replicate this exercise in other countries, as a way of developing global policies for protecting children online.

In March 2012, the Connect Arab Summit affirmed the need to establish a curriculum on cybersecurity, aimed at capacity building and raising awareness in government, academia, the private sector, schools and other constituencies on the protection of children in the online world. Following up on commitment shown by Member States, ITU organized two key events. One is the regional workshop on the legal aspects of child online protection, held in Algeria in June 2012, which also discussed the need to create a working group on the establishment of a regional legal framework for Arab countries. The other is the Child Online Protection workshop in Amman, Jordan, in conjunction with the ITU-IMPACT ALERT Cyber Drill for the Arab region in mid-July 2012. The focus here is the need to enhance cooperation nationally (among public and private entities), regionally and internationally.

In April 2012, the Authority for Info-Communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam, with the support of ITU-IMPACT, organized a child online protection framework workshop to develop a sustainable action plan to be implemented in the country over the next 12 months.

During WSIS Forum 2012 in Geneva, ITU organized a meeting of Child Online Protection partners to discuss how to advance the initiative. An important outcome of this meeting was the agreement to work closely with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to provide the required assistance to Member States.

In July, during the opening ceremony of Connect Americas 2012, ITU invited the President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, to be the keynote speaker on protecting children in cyberspace. Also in July, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, ITU held the ITU-ASEAN Forum on Promoting Effective and Secure Social Media. The Forum focused on promoting the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to raise awareness of both the positive and negative effects of social media on people’s everyday lives.

Upcoming events

In September, ITU-IMPACT together with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of the government of Malaysia will host the Child Online Protection Challenge, with the main objective of assisting schools and teachers, as well as parents, to plan and deploy a sustainable education programme for protecting children online.

In October, with the support of CyberGuardian, one of the Child Online Protection partners, ITU will be organizing a high-level session during ITU Telecom World 2012, to be held in Dubai. The main purpose of the session will be raising awareness and sharing knowledge of child online protection.

ITU is also working in partnership with the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization to facilitate the establishment of national frameworks for child online protection in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Cameroon. The high-level process will consist of five phases: assessment; definition of country plans; finalization of country plans; implementation; and monitoring and evaluation.

Global CyberLympics

Within the framework of the Child Online Protection initiative and under the patronage of Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré, the EC-Council Foundation together with ITU is fostering an environment that creates child online protection through education in information security.

The Global CyberLympics, a not-for-profit initiative led and organized by the EC-Council Foundation, is an event that is held annually. It comprises a series of cybersecurity games, in which teams compete in regional championships. The Global CyberLympics will conclude with world finals, to be held in October 2012 in Miami, United States, to determine the world champion. This competition is an excellent method for building capacity in the ITU Member States. The hope is that the Global CyberLympics will help to foster cyberpeace. ITU has sent letters to all its Member States, Sector Members, Associates and Academia inviting them to join the Global CyberLympics.


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