Children's safe Internet access - The UN and its partners celebrated 'Safer Internet Day' on Tuesday with a special focus on education strategies to promote greater online safety for children and young people.
Mr. Hamadoun Toure, the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the lead UN agency for information and communication technology (ICT), said safer Internet Day was such a great example of how the international community could collaborate in a harmonized way to create a better environment for children.
He said that under the theme 'Creating a better Internet together,' ITU was championing the work of its Child Online Protection initiative, which offered comprehensive sets of guidelines for children, parents, teachers, policy-makers and members of the tech industry.
'ITU has a global reach, but we also understand how important it is to act at the local level within our communities,' Mr. Toure said in a video message for the Day, which was monitored by PANA in New York.
He also added: 'Step by step, by empowering and involving children, young people, parents and teachers, we are striving to educate the next generation on what it means to be a good and responsible global citizen.'
According to him, promoting access to ICT was ITU’s core mandate, but at the same time, while fostering greater access to everybody, it recognised the vital need to ensure that ICTs were used a responsible and safe ways, especially for the younger generation.
ITU research indicates that around half of all European children have online access in their bedrooms, and a quarter of 12-to-15-year-olds now own a tablet.
The use of smartphones to send, receive and post photos and videos online is also rising fast.
It, however, noted that texting, bullying, unsolicited explicit content (sex and violence) and sexual approaches from strangers had become routine online dangers modern teenagers faced, yet studies showed that adults’ knowledge of what young people were doing online was often vague and complacent.
The research revealed that while 92 per cent of parents said they had established clear rules for children’s online activity, 34 per cent of children said their parents had not.
Also, while 85 per cent of parents surveyed said they knew about parental control software, only 30 per cent had actually installed it.
ITU pointed out that while parents often believed they knew enough about the online world to keep their children safe, a 2012 study by Internet security specialist McAfee revealed that four-fifths of teenagers said they know how to hide their online behaviour from parents.
'Generally, restricting children’s Internet access is not the answer: one reason children don’t tell parents about abuse is that the typical reaction of parents is to cut off the child’s Internet connection.
'This can have the counter-productive effect of making children even more secretive about their online activities,' Mr. Toure noted.
Instead, ITU advocates better education in online safety for parents, teachers, and pupils, starting as young as five years old.