Broadband Commission report on child safety online launched at the UN

On October October 1 2019, the co-chairs of the Broadband Commission Working Group on Child Online Safety, Childhood USA and Zain Group, the leading mobile telecom innovator in eight markets across the Middle East and North Africa, announced the publication of a new report on Child Online Safety: Minimizing the Risk of Violence, Abuse and Exploitation Online. The report is a collective effort and draws upon the expertise of the Braodband Commissioners and  experts from around the world. The report was presented at a high-level meeting at the UN, “Children & the Digital World: Threats and Opportunities”. Queen Silvia of Sweden, who founded Childhood twenty years ago, delivered a keynote address.

Actionable recommendations for how to prioritize children’s online safety

Broadband connectivity brings many benefits to children, including access to education and entertainment, it also has a dark side to it as it exposes children to major risks and threats online as well as different forms of violence and exploitation, such as child sexual exploitation and abuse, bullying and radicalization, among other critical vulnerabilities.  The new Child Online Safety report gathers the available evidence on the scale and nature of the risks and harms children face online and provides actionable recommendations for how to prioritize children’s online safety. The report was developed under the leadership of Dr. Joanna Rubinstein, President & CEO of Childhood USA, and Zain Group CEO of Operations, Scott Gegenheimer who co-chair the working group.

A key point made in the report is that we need to prioritize child online safety, especially in anticipation of the expansion of the broadband in the developing world where most children live today. All the stakeholders, governments, regulators, operators, internet service providers, NGOs and civil society and academia have to join forces in implementing common strategies to make the internet safer for children in order to help prepare future generations to thrive in the digital space. These steps include incorporating measures addressing child online protection in the national broadband plans, ensuring that applications and services are age-appropriate and safe per design, and that we deploy technology-driven solutions to improve child online safety.

Necessity of taking action now

Commenting on the publication of the report, Dr. Joanna Rubinstein said “Millions of children are online every day using digital devices. They benefit from getting access to information, education and entertainment. However, they are also exposed to abuse and exploitation including sexual abuse, bullying and even radicalization. It is our duty to prevent this from happening and requires collective action. This report demonstrates the necessity of taking action now and sheds light on how we can take practical steps to address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 calling on ending all forms of violence against children by 2030.”

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary – represent the global commitment to a better future for all, especially to children.

2018, the Broadband Commission Working Group on Child Online Safety 2018, established the Working Group for Child Online Safety with the primary objective to raise awareness of the online risks and threats to children.

Global need to work together

“There is a clear and urgent global need to work together to ensure that connectivity embellishes our children’s experience of the world, rather than impairs it,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU. “Today’s new report and Declaration by the Broadband Commission Working Group on Child Online Safety are welcome and valuable contributions to the global store of best practice, as well as serving as important new inputs to ITU’s Child Online Protection framework.”

Scott Gegenheimer said, “Child Online Safety is a topic that is of great importance for Zain and we are committed to playing our key role in addressing this on a global level. Our region has conflicts and challenges that are quite unique compared to other places in the world as well as the highest share of youth in the world, coupled with a rising broadband connectivity rate. It is imperative for organizations which are based in the region, to be at the forefront of the effort to protect the most vulnerable victims both in the physical world as well as in cyberspace.”

The internet has already transformed our lives at an unprecedented pace and scale. For children in developed countries, the digital world is the one they are born into and live within every single day.  The internet and its associated technologies are completely integrated into the way they live their lives across a very broad spectrum of activities. Governments, academia, civil society and the private sector must invest in and accelerate the development of scalable solutions to address abuse and exploitation of children online. Achieving the SDGs for children by 2030 requires innovation and collective action. 

Broadband connectivity is a key enabler for children’s future, as it ensures that all children have an equal opportunity to thrive, so that no child is left behind. It also plays a critical role as an enabling component as well as helping fuel the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals.

The new Working Group report on Child Online Safety may be downloaded by clicking here.

Text: Childhood USA/Zain Group, photo: private