Online safety for children a key issue - GulfToday

Online safety for children a key issue

Online safety for children a key issue

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Protecting children from exploitation and ensuring their online safety is a prime responsibility for countries across the world.

It is good that on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UAE, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, PASS, and the Child Dignity Alliance hosted a joint ecumenical meeting on the protection of children in the digital world and the responsibility of the religious communities.

As Reem Abdullah Al Falasi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, pointed out, new challenges and threats to the rights of the world’s children have emerged, and the need for protection in the digital world is one of the most prominent of these threats and perhaps the most difficult to deal with, because, in the digital world, risks and abuses are hidden from the public.

Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, is behind pioneering initiatives and many policies and programmes that empowered women and protected children, families and society, which have become priorities of UAE’s goals.

With the guidance of Sheikha Fatima, the UAE has assisted children from around the world, including in the areas of education and healthcare, through launching humanitarian assistance programmes that benefit everyone.

Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, has rightly called on experts in science and technology, the media, businesses, legislators, parents, religious leaders and others to join hands to take concrete action to protect children from criminal violence and harm in the digital world.

The use of digital technology to organise, commission and engage in child abuse at a distance, is outstripping the efforts and resources to combat such abuse.

What is needed, as Pope Francis points out, is a fitting balance between the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and the interests of society, so as to ensure that digital media are not used to perpetrate criminal activities against minors.

It is indeed regrettable that for the sake of advancing the development of the Internet and its many benefits, companies that provide services have long considered themselves mere suppliers of technological platforms, neither legally nor morally responsible for the way they are used.

Despite the enormous potential of digital technology, the negative impact of its abuse in the area of human trafficking, the planning of terrorist activities, the spread of hatred and extremism, the manipulation of information and in the area child abuse, is equally significant.

Next week, Sweden will invite some of the world’s sharpest minds on Artificial Intelligence and child safety for a Round Table in Stockholm to explore how we can accelerate development and the use of technology for good.

As Queen Silvia of Sweden well explained, “On Nov.20, we celebrate 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This same year also marks 30 years of the World Wide Web. Two important birthdays of two human creations that have had immense success and reach over the last three decades. They were born in the same year, 1989 – and their developments are intertwined in a powerful way.”

Al Falasi is absolutely correct in stating: “We must continue to work tirelessly and move towards practical and viable steps to address the challenges faced by the world’s children and ensure their digital dignity. It is time for us to move from words to actions.”

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