ICT a new risk for children - De Sousa

07 Oct 2015 08:10am


The revolution in online communication has created new risks for children and young people. United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) country representative to Namibia, Micaela Marques de Sousa made this statement during the second national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) summit underway in the capital on Tuesday.

She explained that children and young people are accessing and providing a variety of information online, some of which may be harmful. "Children may use social media to hurt, shame or harass other children, we call this cyber-bullying. Children and adults share sexually explicit pictures of other children with the intent to hurt or exploit them, and this is child pornography. Children are, perhaps unknowingly, befriending adults whom they have not met before and they agree to meet in the offline world, and this we call grooming," she explained.

De Sousa said anecdotal evidence suggests that Namibian children are not immune to such kind of online abuse. "It is clear that online and offline behaviour are increasingly linked. Behaviours that are practiced online can lead to serious violence, abuse and exploitation in the real-world environment," she stated. She added that Namibia needs new mechanisms to prevent and respond to these fast growing threats.

Last month, Unicef, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Polytechnic of Namibia and other key stakeholders held a national stakeholder consultation on child online protection. At this meeting stakeholders mapped out opportunities to address new forms of the violation of children's rights happening in an online environment or with an online component to it such as cyber-bullying, child pornography, online stalking or grooming.

The consultation also highlighted the importance of the involvement of industry partners, such as Telecom Namibia and others, and their commitment to work with partners to develop and roll out ICT solutions to advance child online safety in Namibia. "Government alone cannot make this happen, therefore let me reiterate Unicef's commitment to work with all partners including Government, development partners, other United Nations agencies, the private sector, academia, media, civil society, children, parents and educators to halt the threats of online violence against children," De Sousa said.

Organised by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the summit is being held under the theme 'Bridging the Digital Gap'. The two-day summit is scheduled to end on Wednesday.