UNICEF India launched the Child Online Protection in India Report which provides a comprehensive overview of the current risks and threats faced by children when using the internet and social media.
Digital technologies offer signiﬁcant developmental and educational beneﬁts for children. They offer new spaces for learning, play, socialization and entertainment. Most importantly, ICT and social media can offer incredible opportunities for children’s active participation and empowerment, via digital citizenship, and ultimately contribute to the wider efforts towards meeting child-focused development goals. However, the lack of digital literacy and online safety measures mean that children are also exposed to the risk of online crimes, abuse and exploitation. Cyber offences against children are spreading and diversifying across India as new methods are used to harass, abuse and exploit children.
Addressing the gathering, Dr Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), said “I compliment UNICEF and NASSCOM Foundation for organizing the event as Child Online Safety is one of the most important of challenges arising in an internet world. Ministry of Electronics and IT is taking steps to block sites depicting child abuse. However, given the nature of the menace, this requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including service providers, content providers, civil society and regulatory authorities."
The report launched today states that ofﬂine forms of crime and violence against children are ﬁnding new forms of expression in the online world and their effects on children are ampliﬁed. Being able to stay anonymous online and impersonate others may embolden people into offensive and criminal acts and lower the deterrent potential of laws, informed Sonia Sarkar, Communication Officer- Media, UNICEF India,
Cyber-crimes against children have many forms including sex-texting, online grooming, production and distribution of child harmful material, cyber bullying, etc. However, to date cyber-crimes against children in India are under-reported and have receiving very little attention and are not included in the National Crime Records Bureau statistics as a separate category.
“This Report is an important step in the direction of child online protection and safety and will go a long way in improving child online protection measures in our country,” said Stuti Kacker, Chair of NCPCR.
The report is a useful resource for child protection actors, law enforcement agencies, Information and Communication technology (ICT) companies, government ministries, media and anybody concerned about children’s online safety including parents and teachers. It is a resource that should help any organization working with children to enhance their awareness of the issue and understand both where to improve their own interventions and where to strengthen collaboration and coordination with other stakeholders.
“Globally, child online protection is much recognized and discussed agenda but sadly India is a little late to realize it. NASSCOM Foundation appreciates the efforts by UNICEF to bring the right people together to address this burning issue and we are glad to be a Technology for Good partner for this report which should act as a wake-up call,” said Shrikant Sinha, NASSCOM Foundation Head.
The Report also stress the importance to empower parents, professionals and policymakers to play an active role in preventing and protecting children from child online abuse and exploitation. A safe online ecosystem for children requires technical solutions and a high degree of preparedness, collaboration and coordination among stakeholders.
“No single agency or government institution can ensure the safety of children from online threats and violence. This calls for all relevant government institutions, the private sector, international organizations, media, academia and civil society to work together to build structures, mechanisms and capacities to prevent and respond to the specific threats and risks posed to children,” said Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF India Representative.
The Report’s launch event provided a forum for multiple-stakeholders to discuss the complex nature of child online violence and the need for a multi-sectoral response. During the launch senior representatives from key government institutions, the ICT sector, national and international experts, media, academia and civil society discussed the way forward for child online safety, including prevention and response to online violence and abuse. Representatives from 10 States across India participated and estimated international experts contributed to the event including Patrick Burton, Director, Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention– Cape Town (South Africa) and Marie-Laure Lemineur, Head of Programmes for ECPAT International – Bangkok (Thailand).
Young people from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai had the opportunity to talk about what online safety means to them in an interactive session with radio jockeys from New Delhi. Breakthrough India also shared their adolescent #bemysafespace initiative led by young people that promotes online safety for children and adolescents.