Yesterday the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) agency of the United Nations launched its revised Child Online Protection (COP) Guidelines targeting children, parents & educators, the industry, and policymakers. Together with ECPAT International and Western Sydney University, Child Rights Connect led the review the COP Guidelines targeting children.
Since last year, the ITU has been revising its COP Guidelines to include reflections on the special situation of children with disabilities when it comes to online risks and harms as well as issues around new technological developments such as, among others, the Internet of things and artificial intelligence.
COP Guidelines targeted for children
Together with ECPAT International and Western Sydney University, Child Rights Connect led the review the COP Guidelines targeted for children. Efforts were made to ensure the revised Guidelines are accessible, engaging and relevant to children from different age groups. Children from different corners of the world provided their direct inputs influencing the structure and content of their own Guidelines.
The updated Guidelines for children aim to create a space for dialogue between children, their parents/carers, their teachers/educators and their peers, supporting children to deal with the potential risks while also empowering them to explore the opportunities of the internet. They consist of three resources: a story book for children under 9 years old, a workbook for children aged 9 to 12, and a social media campaign and microsite for children and young people aged 13 to 18.
A story book for children under 9 years old
- It presents six scenarios with questions for children to think about and answer, in order to learn about their rights and safety online. Children are guided towards the best solution for each scenario by a mascot, Sango, which was designed by children.
- Parents, carers and teachers are encouraged to read the story book with children – creating a space for discussion and learning about children’s rights and safety online.
A workbook for children aged 9-12
- The workbook contains educational activities which children can complete to learn about their rights online, and also risks to their safety online.
- Children are encouraged to complete the activities either at home with the help of a parent/carer, or at school with the help of a teacher.
A social media campaign and accompanying mini-site for children aged 13-18.
- The social media campaign will be soon launched on Instagram, linked to a microsite, which contains both information and challenges for children to complete. By completing the challenges on the microsite, children will learn how to manage risks online, helping them have safe and positive experiences on the internet.
ITU Guidelines on Child Online Protection
Since children, families and educators, the private sector as well as government stakeholders, all play a crucial role in children’s online safety, the ITU COP Guidelines are dedicated to each of these key players. Indeed, there is a resource targeting children, another for parents & educators, another for the industry, finally a resource for policymakers.
The ITU Guidelines on Child Online Protection are a comprehensive set of recommendations for all relevant stakeholders on how to contribute to the development of a safe and empowering online environment for children and adolescents. The resources create an opportunity to learn about and strengthen children’s digital skills and knowledge, helping them learn ways to manage online risks, while at the same time empowering them to exercise their rights online and engage in opportunities that the internet presents to them.
The official launch that took place on June the 24th counted with the participation of Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, who also collaborated with a blog entry here. You can see the complete official launch here.
All the new ITU COP Guidelines can be found here.
The translations of all Guidelines into the six UN languages will be available at the end of July.
Timely context: reassurance in COVID-19 context – CRC Draft GC on Children’s Rights in the Digital environment
The launch of the updated ITU COP Guidelines is very timely. Indeed, on the one hand, the guidelines can provide guidance and reassurance in this COVID-19 context, where there is a heightened use the internet, creating increased risks of harm online for children. The ITU Secretary Genral Houlin Zhao precised in the press release of the launch that “The question of how to ensure children’s online safety in the age of COVID-19 is now more pressing than ever before,” and that the “ITU’s new Guidelines on Child Online Protection are a very timely tool to safeguard the well-being, integrity, and safety of our children, our most precious gift.”
On the other hand, the fact that the Committee for the Rights of the Child is currently developing its draft General Comment on Children’s Rights in the Digital environment creates a space for the updated COP Guidelines to feed into and complement the CRC’s work emphasizing the importance of enabling the full range of children’s rights as they relate to the digital environment
CALL TO ACTION
The ITU COP Guideliness were designed to complement and reinforce existing online safety interventions underway around the globe. A collaborative and multistakeholder approach was used to develop these new Guidelines. And a collaborative effort will be required to activate them. Working together, we can ensure that these resources make their way into the hands of children, parents, industry and policy makers and contribute to children’s capacity to mitigate the risks of harm and maximize the benefits of engaging online. Please help us in disseminating these resources widely, and let’s think together how we can actively use them.