Little girl using laptop whilst sitting on sofa

Internet is now an integrated tool in our lifestyles and way of living. Indeed, the existence and role of digital technical has become undisputed. Internet provides people of all ages all around the world with alternative ways and means of communication and to engage with each other. Children and young people are at the forefront of this new norm of life. The United Nations International Telecommunication Union has noted that one third of all Internet users nowadays are children and young people. It is accounted that 94% of persons aged15 to 24 years in developed countries are online whilst 65% of the said category in developing countries are well ahead of internet usage amongst the general population. 

Internet is indeed a tool of empowerment which is equipped with educational tools that provide children and young people with skills and proficiencies for their further development. Nonetheless, it may also cause harm in cases of abuse. All children are susceptible to such digital violence whilst there is an added risk for children who are already vulnerable. 

It is estimated that one third of the children and young people are victims of online bullying whilst one fifth of the aforementioned have even skipped school because of the said abuse. In 2019, UNICEF has confirmed that more than 70% of young people globally have experienced online violence, cyberbullying and digital harassment. Victims of cyberbullying stand at a greater risk of abusing from drugs and alcohol, achieve lower grades and suffer from low self-esteem and health problems. UNESCO has also confirmed that girls are at greater risk of experiencing such abuse than boys. Overall, half of the world population is online which in itself increases the risks of digital abuse. It has been proved that social media hosts the main sources of online abuse for children and young people. As a matter of fact, the upsurge of social media usage has translated into an increase in cyberbullying amongst children and young people. 

Internet should not restrict or undermine children and young people’s rights including the right for education, access to information and freedom of expression. Internet should be a safe tool for engagement whereby children are enabled to acquire and augment their digital literacy. 

OSCAR, Online Safety for Children And Relatives, aims to ensure that children and young people are healthy users of technology whereby their safety and wellbeing online is safeguarded. In this regard, it will build upon and enhance existing initiatives in the field of online protection for children both on a national and international level.  

This project shall seek to be future proof. To this effect, its format and respective mechanisms shall be intended to overcome any upcoming and new forms of digital treats, bullying and violence which children may be encountered with on the digital platform. 

It is everyone’s responsibility to protect the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in the digital environment whilst ensuring that they benefit from the digital revolution. Thus, a joint effort by policy makers, parents, guardians and educators as well as industry is fundamental. To this effect, the National Child Online Protection project shall be based on a multi-stakeholder mechanism whereby a holistic approach shall be adopted throughout the implementation of the project itself and beyond. 

The primary and overall objective of the project is to achieve a higher degree of child online protection whilst seeking to eradicate online violence and bullying therein. In this regard, the project shall fully implement the Guidelines for children, parents and educators, policy makers as well as the industry on Child Online Protection 2020 issued by the UN International Telecommunication Union. 

The project shall also seek to enhance collaboration and joint efforts amongst the respective stakeholders on a national as well as co-operation with relevant international partners.

Cartoon of a little boy chatting on a computer and a question mark of the seat of the computer on the other end. This picture implies that the child does not know who he is chatting with.