Wuzhen, 20 October 2019 – As we mark 30 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the creation of the World Wide Web, more needs to be done to protect children’s rights online as well as offline, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi said today.
Abdi was speaking today at a sub-forum called ”Protection of Minors Online and Governance of Internet Ecology” at the 2019 World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province. The sub-forum was co-hosted by UNICEF the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, China Children and Teenager’s Fund, and with China.cn and Tencent as co-organizers.
“In this digital age, the development of ICTs has brought with it great opportunities for children, however, it has also brought risks to their safety and wellbeing,” said Omar Abdi, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, who spoke at the sub-forum. “We must ensure that children’s rights – and particularly protecting children online – are at the heart of internet governance and safety.”
According to a recent report on children’s internet use that was jointly produced by the Communist Youth League and the China Internet Network Information Centre, in mid-2018, an estimated 93.7 per cent of Chinese children aged 6–18 (or 169 million) had access to the Internet. Of these, some 15.6 per cent have reported experiencing online violence, 30.3 per cent have reported encountering illegal and/or inappropriate content, and 30.9 per cent have reported not knowing how to protect their rights.
Issues of excessive use, exposure to inappropriate content, misuse of personal information and privacy, online child sexual abuse and cyberbullying have frequently made headlines in China. In response, the Government has stepped up its efforts in the areas of online child protection. The Regulation on Online Protection of Minors has been included in the State Council’s legislative plan and the Law on Protection of Minors, the key legislation for child rights and child protection in China, is being revised with a new focus on online protection.
Abdi recognized China’s efforts in the area of online protection, citing the country’s pledge to the WePROTECT Global Alliance to end child sexual exploitation online and its recent enactment of the Rules of Online Protection of Children’s Personal Data. He also called for greater involvement from the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector.
“The ICT sector needs to shoulder greater responsibility to uphold child rights online and bring innovative solutions to the table,” said Abdi. “We acknowledge that more and more businesses are taking this issue seriously. ”
Aside from its participation at this year’s Wuzhen Summit, UNICEF is also a participant at the World Internet Expo, a side event of the World Internet Conference. On 18 October, at the event’s opening day, UNICEF unveiled its ‘Key to Kindness’ campaign‘ featuring an interactive keyboard installation. The campaign, which aims to help build a positive online experience in China, features a life-size, reimagined keyboard filled with positive words. The ‘kindness keyboard’ is intended to urge young people to rethink the way they speak to each other online, by specifically asking them to be more intentional and to use goodwill on the keyboard.
Young people unable to join the World Internet Expo can also experience the ‘Key to Kindness’ campaign through an H5 game, where kind words are used to win over bullying monsters.
Beyond its offline and digital campaign, UNICEF China also offers guidance on how to cope with cyberbullying, including information on warning signs that child is being bullied or is bullying others, and what to do when cyberbullying happens.
UNICEF’s Work on Online Child Protection
In recent years, UNICEF China has been working to advocate for greater child online protection in the government’s policy agenda by supporting policy makers and regulatory bodies, and working with the ICT industry to advocate for policies, strategies and programmes to promote children’s safe and responsible use of ICT.
This is the second time UNICEF has been invited by the Government of China to co-host a forum on child online protection. At the 2017 Wuzhen Summit, UNICEF hosted “Safeguarding the Future,” the first high-level child online protection forum in China. This was co-hosted together with the China Youth League and with the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center, China Academy of Information and Communication Technology, and Tencent as supporting organizers.