On 7th February, 2017, J Initiative partnered with World Vision International, Facebook, Tigo, Vodafone, Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Open Learning, Ghana Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-Ghana) and Department of Children, among others to undertake a series of activities to celebrate “Safer Internet Day” aimed at helping make the Internet a safer and better place for people across Ghana, especially children and the youth.
Some of the activities held included a route match by school children and teachers in Greater Accra, Volta, Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Northern regions and a stakeholders’ forum on the global theme: “Be the change: unite for a better internet”. The day also saw the introduction of the Keeping Children Safe Online (KCSO) tutorial.
“The risk of online abuse and violence remains high particularly with the involvement of children in the online world. 48% of eighteen year-olds check Facebook when they wake up, while 28% do so using their smart phones before getting out of bed. The need for knowledge and mechanisms to protect users (children) is crucial. World Vision (WV) recognized the value of maximizing online opportunities while minimizing the risk of harm associated with internet use. Upholding the rights of children and ensuring their protection are both foundational principles for WV.
“Using the systems approach to child protection there is the need for all stakeholders: government, development partners, INGO/NGOs, private sector including the Tele communication companies (MTN, TIGO, VODAFONE etc), Facebook to work together to build the resilience of children, empower parents, provide appropriate content as well as establish a reporting and referral mechanism with a component of psychosocial services for victims and their families,” says Gregory Dery, Advocacy, Child Protection and Gender Coordinator World Vision International, Ghana.
“Safety is a shared conversation around the world, so we are working with partners around the world who are experts in those kinds of conversations. Our goal is to create an environment in which we treat each other with empathy and respect,” says Akua Gyekye, Public Policy Manager Facebook, Africa.
Touching on Tigo’s effort to raise awareness on the importance of working towards creating a safer online environment for everyone, Tigo’s Director for Corporate Affairs, Gifty Bingley disclosed that in 2014 Tigo’s parent company, Millicom, signed a three-year partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to create standards for the telecoms industry aimed at promoting respect for the online rights of young people and to advance child online protection across all its operations.
She said following that global commitment, Tigo Ghana, has committed to child online protection and has been supporting local organisations such as J Initiative to create awareness and build the capacity of stakeholders, especially parents, teachers and children.
“In 2016, we supported J Initiative to train 86 teachers from 16 districts within the Greater Accra Region. Some 2,300 pupils from 20 selected schools were also trained on how to stay safe online. Safety awareness sessions were also done for parents in some churches in Accra,” she said.
J Initiative will continue with the advocacy campaign and awareness raising on Child Online protection and safety in the country with the support of all stakeholders. Children and young people’s confident adoption of new technologies has many positive outcomes with benefits of use ranging from education, communication, social engagement and entertainment. However there are also perceived risks, particularly around Internet content, and the conduct and contact risks inherent in peer to peer communication facilitated by the Internet.
JI wish to state that children and young people are Internet users like adults and have human rights that apply online as well as off-line. In spite of their right to be protected from harm, they must be able to exercise and enjoy their rights to privacy, opinion and information; education; and participation. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that adults and states have three public policy obligations with regard to children, these are protection (because they are vulnerable); provision (of health and education); and participation (they should be made to participate in matters that concern them). These rights and obligations will help in the development of children’s capabilities and well-being.
To this end, everybody including children and young people have a role just as the other stakeholders in making the cyberspace an enjoyable environment for all.