Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Protecting children online is everyone’s business

By Kinanti Pinta Karana, Communication Specialist 

Lauren Rumble, UNICEF Deputy Representative, highlights the risk behind open access to online information.

The meeting room is abuzz with voices of people debating while some are writing pointers on flip charts. The scene is from the National Public Consultation on Child Online Protection organised by UNICEF Indonesia and the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information (Kemenkominfo). The event, divided into three stages, is attended by 150 invitees from CSOs, children and youth organisations, school counsellors, government officials, industry representatives as well as other UN agencies. It aims to create a set of recommendations to be handed over to the Kemenkominfo as the authority in online protection.

“Access to the internet, particularly through mobile phones, enables children and adolescents to be part of a global community, with unprecedented access to information. From the populated cities of Java, to the rural island communities in remote Papua, children in some of the world's most disadvantaged and inaccessible communities now have billions of gigabytes of information at their fingertips,” Lauren Rumble, UNICEF Deputy Representative says in her opening remark. “Access to social networks and the World Wide Web provide young people with incredible opportunities for education, entertainment, entrepreneurship and innovation. The possibilities are infinite. But alongside these opportunities are risks.”

“UNICEF recognises the very powerful role that children and young people can play in keeping each other safe from harm. Children and young people can support one another by sharing information about how to protect each other and speaking out against online violence, as they explore the many positive opportunities in the online world. With more than a third of Indonesia's youth population online, the opportunities for creativity and innovative solutions are endless,” says Rumble.

It is a sentiment shared by other stakeholders, including the government. “We are asking everyone, all of you, together to do everything we can to make sure that freedom in accessing information does not harm our children and it is everyone’s job to assure that we as society and our children as future leaders get maximum benefit from the information super highway,” says Septriana Tangkary, Director of Information Empowerment of the Kemenkominfo.

Sisters Olive and Olla are bullying victims and they say every day is a struggle.

Among the young people in the attendance are two sisters, Olive and Olla. The teenagers bravely share their experience as victims of cyber bullying and how they overcome it. “Every day is a struggle for us, being bullied is very depressing. We only hope to be accepted, no more bullying to us or to other children,” Olive says to the roar of applause from the audience.

The sisters’ powerful testimony becomes a topic in the group discussion. Each group has to map the challenges in child online protection and create one recommendation to be handed over to the government. The complete recommendations are that the government should invest in boosting resources and facilities to strengthen digital safety for children, the government should strengthen and promote family resilience to encourage parents to actively be involved in protecting their children-it can be done by issuing guidelines on digital safety, government should involve youth in programs as a key partner and last but not least, government should strengthen inter-agencies collaboration to strengthen policies, programs and regulation.

Participants take part in group discussion to find the best recommendations on child online protection event.   

The event ends with symbolic handover of the recommendations to the Ministry of Communication and Information. The recommendations are expected to provide insights for the ministry on multiple ways to improve child online protection.

“From the recommendations, one thing is clear, digital safety for children is not only the responsibility of the government but of many people. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to protect a child,” says Ali Aulia Ramly from UNICEF Child Protection Cluster.

Ali Aulia Ramly from UNICEF Indonesia symbolically hands over recommendations to improve child online protection in Indonesia to Siti Mei Ningsih from the Ministry of Communication and Information.