ITU celebrates global safer internet day

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has joined with other UN agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments and technologicalcompanies around the world to celebrate Safer Internet Day, with a special focus on education strategies to promote greater online safety for children and young people.

Under the theme “Creating a better Internet together”, ITU is championing the work of its Child Online Protection initiative, which offers comprehensive sets of guidelines for children, for parents and teachers, for policy makers, and for the tech industry, in all six official UN languages.
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. But experts say children’s online safety skills have failed to rise at the same rate as their adoption of new applications and devices.
Sexting, bullying, unsolicited explicit content (sex and violence) and sexual approaches from strangers have become routine online dangers modern teenagers face, yet studies show that adults’ knowledge of what young people are doing online is often vague and complacent.

Research reveals that while 92% of parents say they have established clear rules for children’s online activity, 34% of children say their parents have not. And while 85% of parents surveyed said they knew about parental control software, only 30% had actually installed it.
And even though parents often blithely believe they know enough about the online world to keep their children safe, a 2012 study by Internet security specialist McAfee revealed that four-fifths of teenagers say they know how to hide their online behaviour from parents.
Said ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, “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,” Instead, ITU advocates better education in online safety for parents, teachers, and pupils, starting as young as 5 years old. To that end, today the organization is running workshop sessions to help parents understand the risks and learn about tools that can help them keep their children safer, followed by workshops for children aged 10-14 from the local Geneva area, in partnership with NGOs Action Innocence ISC2. During the course of the year ahead ITU also has plans to collaborate with sister agency UNICEF and tech industry partners such as Skype in the Classroom to develop educational lessons for children delivered online.

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