Joint UN, European initiative seeks to protect children from online dangers

10 February 2009

The United Nations telecom agency and the European Commission have teamed up to protect children, among the most active – and most vulnerable – users of the Internet from online dangers, including cyber-bullying and paedophilia.

“Child online safety must be on the global agenda,” Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said in a press release.

The Geneva-based ITU has joined forces with the EC to mark Safer Internet Day, which includes more than 500 events in 50 countries worldwide to promote child online protection.

“We must ensure that everyone is aware of the dangers for children online. And we want to promote and strengthen the many outstanding efforts that are being made around the world, such as the Safer Internet Programme, to limit these dangers,” said Mr. Touré.

According to recent surveys, over 60 per cent of children and teenagers talk in chat rooms on a daily basis. Three in four children online are willing to share personal information about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services. One in five children will be targeted by a predator or paedophile each year.

“Children are very resourceful in making the most of online services such as social networking sites and mobile phones,” said Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

“But many still underestimate the hidden risks of using these, from cyber-bullying to sexual grooming online. Today, I call upon all decision-makers, from both the public and the private sector, to listen and learn from children and to improve awareness strategies and tools to protect minors.”

ITU notes that while child online protection programmes exist in many developed countries, there are very few in the developing world – and very little coordination between them.

The agency has set up the Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) and launched the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, which aims to bring together partners from all around the world to ensure a safe and secure online experience for children everywhere.

As part of the Safer Internet Day events, the EC’s Ins@fe Network will launch a virtual exhibition which will host pavilions where visitors can learn more about initiatives undertaken by the 50 participating countries.

ITU will host an online pavilion in support of EC’s efforts to raise awareness among youngsters aged 12 to 17 regarding the risks they may face online.

 

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