International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has proclaimed continuous support for its Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, aimed at creating a safe and empowering online experience for children.
Carla Licciardello, ITU Child Online Protection Focal Point, says “the COP initiative, launched in November, 2008, has helped to address children’s online education by presenting a platform where children, parents and educators learn more about the risks children face on the internet and how these risks can be mitigated, so children can reap the benefits of ICT access.”
Noting that the internet is a powerful tool for youth empowerment, Licciardello stated that the COP Programme, which is a multi-stakeholder platform, is part of the Union’s “proactive efforts to raise awareness and impact critical thinking skills for students, educators and parents.”
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are now crucial tools for children’s education but these new tools can bring new risks to our most vulnerable digital citizens.[/quote]According to Licciardello, COP Guidelines which have been formally adapted and implemented by many relevant stakeholders include “best practices and key recommendations for different interest groups including policymakers, industry, children, as well as parents, guardians, and educators.”
“The COP initiative has taken on added importance since the UN formally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which recognize reducing violence against children as a key area for development”, Licciardello highlighted, adding that the COP initiative supports two significant areas of work that directly tie to specific SDGs. The areas are to seize opportunities and to resolve potential threats.
Licciardello asserted that by engaging in education activities to help children gain the necessary knowledge and skills for a safer online lifestyle, COP has seized the opportunity by contributing to the 6th target of the SDG17 which is “Enhance … regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation”.
Citing the COP Strategy Framework Workshop in Zambia as an example, Licciardello stressed that COP has also resolved potential threats by contributing directly to the 2nd target of SDG16 which is “End abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture or children.”
“Through our international network of partners, we have increased awareness of the risks that children face online and promote global collaboration for their mitigation. To achieve this, we run awareness campaigns, assist countries in drafting national strategies, and facilitate coordination on implementation at the national and regional level,” Licciardello stated.
Licciardello further stated: “Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are now crucial tools for children’s education but these new tools can bring new risks to our most vulnerable digital citizens. As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICTs, ITU continues to tackle these growing global risks by working with governments, private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academia to find unified solutions to protect future generations online.”
ITU calls upon more partners to join in the COP initiative in building a global response to this global challenge faced by children on the internet.