Online safety education for school children

Leading towards a world record, one million school children across Bangladesh are expected to receive an online safety certification within the next year, making their online experience safer. The ICT Division of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, with support from UNICEF, will embark on this journey to minimise the growing risks faced by children and adolescents online in an increasingly connected world.  

This was announced Tuesday at an event organised marking the international Safer Internet Day 2020. It was attended by school children, members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), domain and social media experts, telecom operators, media professionals, renowned actors, representatives from trade bodies, and cybercrime experts from the Bangladesh Police.

A 2019 survey commissioned by UNICEF brought to light that cyberbullying is a serious problem in Bangladesh. Thirty-two per cent of respondents reported to have been bullied online for their appearance, examination result, religion and other reasons. The research Online Safety of Children in Bangladesh surveyed 1,281 school-going Internet-using children aged 10 to 17 years from schools, colleges and Madrasahs.

According to the study, 25 per cent of the children started to access the digital world below the age of 11 years. While older children may be more exposed to cyberbullying, children of all ages are at risk of exposure to harmful content, sexual exploitation, abuse and cyberbullying.  The certification course that was launched Tuesday will equip children throughout Bangladesh with the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe online.

The Safer Internet Day has been observed since 2004 to raise awareness on emerging online issues and trends.  The theme for this year is Together for a Better Internet and was attended by the State Minister for the ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak as the chief guest.

“Within a year’s time, we will create history by providing one million school-going children with safer Internet usage certification and make a major stride towards giving our children the much-needed protection against lurking online risks,” said state minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak.

The day-long event promoted local internet content among children and parents, conducted sessions on net etiquette for children, introduced parental control tools, encouraged open conversation, and educated children, parents and teachers on safety aspect of the Internet.

“It is high time that we weigh the risks and opportunities of cyber technology and use our collective wisdom and strength to minimize the risks. Shutting children out of the Internet is not a solution. In today’s world, children need the wealth of knowledge and information that is available online,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Country Representative in Bangladesh.