Shield on for kids in cyberspace

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Cyberspace is a relatively new frontier, ushered in by the emergence of the World Wide Web. The development of this technology has made the world seem a much smaller place because of the current span of interconnectivity unimaginable hundreds of years ago.

Cyberspace has become the preferred avenue for almost all sorts of communications because of speed and convenience. But the very advantages it brings also pose potential threats — especially to the youth today — and the dangers are definitely real.

The advent of social media, be it Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, had opened to the youth a wonderful portal that allowed them to share their thoughts and feelings without having to reveal their real identities.

Such cloak of anonymity afforded by cyberspace also allows crooks and criminals to pose a threat to almost everyone who has direct access to the Internet, especially the Filipino youth who spend a lot of time online using social media.

These are aimed at ensuring the scope of child protection extends to the cyberspace.

Last February, the UK-based consultancy firm We Are Social reported that the Philippines topped the world in terms of social media usage. We Are Social said Filipinos spent an average of 3 hours and 57 minutes a day on social media sites, mainly on Facebook.

In line with the lurking online threat to the youth, the Department of Education (DepEd) recently launched an educational campaign to teach learners, parents, teachers and school communities to keep children safe as they traverse the electronic information highway.

Dubbed “#BeCyberSafe,” the DepEd project is being implemented in collaboration with Stairway Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Marketing Associations of the Philippines.

It is in line with the aim of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) — of which the Daily Tribune is a media partner — which targets sustainable and resilient technological advancement in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and infrastructure support. Tremendous progress has been made internationally in accepting that international law and the UN Charter apply in cyberspace.

The 17 SDG, otherwise known as Global Goals, is a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. It builds on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities.

The DepEd project consists of three major components: Project for Keeps, Dalir-Eskwela and Chatbot. These are aimed at ensuring the scope of child protection extends to the cyberspace.

Aside from educating young students on the risks of befriending strangers online, the project also offers a range of educational materials, which discuss key issues on cyber safety from cyberbullying to online chatting, online gaming and online pornography.

Recent studies conducted by Stairway Foundation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), showed around 43.8 percent or almost half of the respondents aged 13-18 have experienced cyber violence.

Recently, the UN concluded a forum entitled “Internet of Trust” which brought more than 3,000 participants from 143 countries together to confront issues ranging from cybersecurity to ethics, fake news and the spread of disinformation, hate speech, data as a cross-cutting issue, regulation of the internet and people’s rights online.

The forum highlighted trust in its discussion, noting the fact that society, including a digital one, cannot function without trust. It also stressed the need for changes in approaches to safeguard the public in support of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in today’s landscape of rapid technological changes.

“When it comes to governance, we must be as creative and as bold as those who first built the Internet. You can count on my support in this journey towards a prosperous, safe and fair digital future,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

With over 71 percent of global youth having online access today, issues such as the digital divide, the need for increased education on digital skills and literacy, hate speech and new technology’s impact on future employment opportunities dominated the conversations.

The commitment to the 2030 Agenda was evident in the centrality of the Sustainable Development Goals in the technology discussions. Guterres said digital solutions are transforming lives and can turbocharge our work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

He said harnessing the power of the Internet and ensuring inclusive, equitable and transparent development strategies are key principles for reaping the benefits of new technology.

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