UNICEF calls for efforts to protect children online

By Wang Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 22, 2019
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UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi delivers a keynote speech calling upon all parties to protect children's rights online on 20 October at the sub-forum "Protection of Minors Online and Governance of Internet Ecology" at the 2019 World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province. [Photo by Dong Ning/china.org.cn]

The global community must ensure that children's rights, and particularly protecting children online, is at the heart of internet governance and safety, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi said on 20 October at the sub-forum "Protection of Minors Online and Governance of Internet Ecology" during the 2019 World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province.

"In this digital age, the development of ICTs (information, communication and technology) has brought with it great opportunities for children; however, it has also brought risks to their safety and wellbeing," the official said.

Issues of excessive use, exposure to inappropriate content, misuse of personal information and privacy, online child sexual abuse and cyberbullying frequently make headlines.

According to a report on Chinese children's internet use, jointly produced by the Communist Youth League of China and the China Internet Network Information Centre, by July 31, 2018, an estimated 169 million Chinese children aged 6-18 (93.7 per cent of total) had access to the Internet.

Of these, some 15.6 per cent reported experiencing online violence, 30.3 per cent had been exposed to illegal and/or inappropriate content, and 30.9 per cent admitted not knowing how to protect their rights.

In response, the Chinese Government has stepped up its efforts in the areas of online child protection. A regulation on protection of minors in cyberspace has been included in the State Council's legislative plan and the Law on the Protection of Minors, a key national legislation for child rights and child protection, is being revised with a new focus on online protection.

Abdi recognized China's efforts in the area of online protection. "UNICEF commends China's leadership in this area, particularly the government's continuous efforts to protect children, e.g., China's pledge to the WeProtect Global Alliance to end child sexual exploitation online, and the recent enactment of a regulation on the protection of children's personal information on networks", he said.

He also called for greater involvement from the ICT sector, saying it needed "to shoulder greater responsibility to uphold child rights online and bring innovative solutions to the table. We do acknowledge that more and more businesses are taking this issue seriously."

Concerning how to tackle cyberbullying, Abdi told a reporter of China.org.cn in an exclusive interview that it was not an issue that one sector or one entity alone could address, as "governments, parents, teachers and children themselves all have a role."

"Governments first of all need to have laws that can prevent cyberbullying; parents need to understand how to talk to their children and help them whenever they face cyberbullying; teachers have a responsibility to identify those children that are likely to be bullied because they are from minorities or they are immigrants or because of their sexual orientation," he said.

Abdi also mentioned one of UNICEF's campaign "Key to Kindness". At the Light of the Internet Expo, another side event of the World Internet Conference, UNICEF set up an interactive keyboard installation, featuring a life-size, reimagined keyboard filled with positive words to promote the campaign.

"We want to teach children to use kind words as opposed to mean words," Abdi explained, adding that it was intended to urge young people to rethink the way they speak to each other online.

According to Abdi, the Internet breaks down national borders, so governments need to work together as they build a new system of governance.

"They need to keep in mind the protection of children as part of that internet governance," Abdi said. He believed that legal forces need to work together in order to protect children. And Abdi also thought the forum was an opportunity for governments to discuss and share experience. 

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