In the framework of the United Nations, as the sole facilitator of WSIS Action Line C5 "Building Confidence and Security of ICTs (information and communications technologies)", ITU (International Telecommunication Union) is playing an important role in the global effort to protect children online including through the multistakeholder Child Online Protection (COP) Initiative and the ITU Council Working Group on Child Online Protection. Several targets in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) refer to the importance of increased access to ICT. ICT can empower young people with information and tools to become active and engaged citizens, and support achievement of the SDGs. It is also essential that children be protected online and learn safe use of technologies, since increased access also leads to increased risk.
According to the ITU's Measuring the Information Society (MIS) Report
, young people are almost twice as networked as the global population as a whole. In developing countries, digital natives are vigorously leading their nation's internet use. Within the next five years, the digital native population will more than double. The Resolution 179 (Busan, 2014)
recognised the value of the Council Working Group on Child Online Protection as an important global forum to convene all stakeholder groups to consider, deliberate on, review and formulate result-oriented actions on Child Online Protection. The Group is open to all relevant stakeholders and is requested to run a youth online consultation prior to each meeting. The first two consultations were on cyberbullying.
RErights and Operation Uncool
Since 2016, RErights.org has teamed up with ITU's Child Online Protection (COP) initiative to launch "Operation Uncool", a consultation inviting young people to share their perceptions and responses to cyberbullying.
Over the two rounds of the consultation, Operation Uncool allowed the Council Working Group Members to consider young people's opinions and report their concerns to relevant stakeholders so they can reflect young people's needs in policymaking.
During the last consultation, 65 young people from 14 countries participated, with each taking part in at least one "Mission". The country where the project gave the best results was Kenya where the consultation was organised through schools and hence youth participated in small groups.
In order to understand what cyberbullying is for young people, the consultation asked what actions they consider to be related to cyberbullying:
97 per cent of young people stated "Making fun of someone within an online group by using code or acronyms the person doesn't understand".
92 per cent "Spreading rumours about someone online".
89 per cent "Sending a mean message about one person to many other people".
82 per cent "Sending a mean message to one person".
68 per cent "Pretending to be someone else online".
42 per cent "Posting a video of someone without their permission".
39 per cent "Deliberately excluding someone from an online forum or group".
32 per cent "Writing a status on someone else's Facebook".
In addition, young people emphasised that how one thinks about cyberbullying depends on the person's lived experience. In addition, it seems that some teenagers feel that there is a generation gap because adults never got the chance to use social media at their age.
The consultation so far suggests that policy makers should seek to centre children's insights and experiences in developing and delivering education/awareness raising and child protection, as children's concerns don't always match up with those of adults. The consultation also shows how various educational programmes are being adopted inside and outside of the school context. These programmes aim to prevent bullying and cyberbullying by informing children, parents and educators about risks on the internet, encouraging and motivating children, parents, and educators to support possible victims of cyberbullying and to play a proactive role in preventing such illicit behaviour.
Find out more about ITU's work on Child Online Protection more generally on the ITU website