New working group: POP – Protection through Online Participation
The Office of the Special Representative is joined a new working group established within ITU’s Child Online Protection Initiative that includes the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, UNICEF, along with Child Helpline International, Global Kids Online, mainframe hardware platform IBM Z, volunteer community MentorNations, and the UK Safer Internet Centre.
The collaborative initiative “is a necessary step toward understanding the numerous benefits and opportunities for the protection of children and young people, both online and offline.”
The group – launched at Safer Internet Day 2022 – aims to develop a better understanding of how online means are helping enhance child protection systems, sharing good practices, lessons learned, and challenges. First it will map out online support systems and services around the world. Then it will make the information available, assess the various online resources, and make recommendations to child protection stakeholders, governments, and technology providers.
Alongside professionals in the field, the working group will include children and youth, committing to incorporate authentic voices throughout the process.
As the General Comment No. 25 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recognised, the digital environment acts as nexus to providing diverse opportunities and choices. It has opened many doors for children and young people to realize the full range of their rights, such as the right to participate, express themselves, access information, communicate, and learn, and to live free from violence. Creation of online protection resources led by young people, particularly in grassroots’ spaces, have also emerged driven by peer-to-peer support to help promote online safety.
Children are using the Internet to access help and protection: according to a recent report by Child Helpline International, the number of children contacting helplines increased by 25% from 2019 to 2020, including an increase in those using digital means to make contact. Moreover, young people are increasingly finding their own innovative online solutions to support their mental health and wellbeing and that of other young people. In particular, research has shown the crucial role played by peer networks in reporting and preventing online violence.
Hence, there is an urgent need to build on this evidence when developing systems and mechanisms to protect children and young people from violence.
To emphasize the need to develop safety related measures in-line with this evidence, ITU has initiated a collaboration with Child Helpline International, Global Kids Online, IBM Z, ITU, the Office of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, UNICEF, and the UK Safer Internet Centre, to establish and disseminate a global mapping of the current ways that children and young people use the digital environment to access protection services, support each other, and stay safer, both online and offline, and to better understand the effectiveness of these systems.
In its first phase, the project endeavours to understand how the digital environment is currently used by children and youth to access safety means such as helplines, support systems and online protection resources to access the support they need.
In its second phase, the initiative aims to produce recommendations for relevant stakeholders, building on the analysis of findings of the global mapping.