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How to ensure safe online experiences for kids?

Now a new campaign on online safety, digital literacy and psychosocial support for adolescents and young children

When browsing the internet, children may be exposed to hate speech and violent content, including messages that incite self-harm. Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

Did you know that more than a third of young people in 30 countries report being cyberbullied, with 1 in 5 skipping school because of it. And now with the pandemic, young children and adolescents are spending more time online than before. Hence it becomes paramount to ensure their safety in the virtual world.

"When used in the right way—and accessible to all—the internet has the potential to broaden horizons and ignite creativity the world over. But with these opportunities come serious risks," mentions a September 2020-article, titled 'Protecting Children Online', by the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF. It goes on to state that cyberbullying and other forms of peer-to-peer violence can affect young people each time they log in to social media or instant messaging platforms. When browsing the internet, children may be exposed to hate speech and violent content—including messages that incite self-harm and even suicide.

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"Most alarming is the threat of online sexual exploitation and abuse. It has never been easier for child sex offenders to contact their potential victims, share imagery and encourage others to commit offences. Children may be victimized through the production, distribution and consumption of sexual abuse material, or they may be groomed for sexual exploitation, with abusers attempting to meet them in person or exhort them for explicit content," the article goes on to explain.

It is to rectify this to some extent that UNICEF India and Facebook have launched a one-year joint initiative to end violence against children, with a special focus on online safety. It hopes to increase children’s awareness about digital violence and its impact not just on them but also on their families, and communities. The campaign will also empower communities and frontline workers with skills to better prevent and respond to violence.

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“The covid-19 pandemic has increased chances for children to face violence—whether online or offline. Acknowledging the significant efforts being made to end violence against children, its important different stakeholders come together, to increase awareness, change behaviours and perceptions around how, when and where violence against children occurs. This is critical to promote better understanding the violence and most effective ways to ensure child safety both online and offline,” says Yasumasa Kimura, UNICEF India Deputy Representative Programmes.

    10.08.2021 | 11:31 AM IST

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