A ‘young’ country on the move

Country Programme 2006-2010

The new UNICEF representative in Albania

Related information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Mr Palm's remarks during the "Child Online Safety Campaign" on 15 February 2011

Child Online Safety Campaign - Microsoft Innovative Educators Forum (remarks to officials, Microsoft, teachers, parents and young people)

Yesterday was Valentine's day. And as I was preparing for today's remarks, I also thought about young people, girls and boys, who would be drawn to Facebook and the internet, to find friends, perhaps a new date, or something that they haven't experienced yet in real life. The internet opens a fantastic, new world and provides endless opportunities. But of course, many young people would not be experienced in surfing the internet. And instead of finding love and friends, they would be terrorized with unwanted pictures and contacts. Possibly, they fall prey to stalkers out to abuse and violate children.

But I am far from discouraging the use of the internet. I used the internet to research for my speech. As usual, in a few seconds I got a massive amount of information that I was looking for. I found on the internet a report - about 3 months old - organized by the European Union and London School of Economics and Politics – one of the most reputable universities in the world. They had surveyed about 25,000 children and parents.

The report says that 12% of European 9-16 year olds say that they have been bothered or upset by something on the internet. The most common risk reported by children are communicating with people they haven't met and seeing things that they don’t want to see. Three quarter of the 15-16 year olds are going on the Internet every day – in Europe. And while Albania does not yet have that many computers, in a few years also Albania will have caught up. Most children go online at home, half of them in their own bedroom. In some countries, seven or eight year old children go online, and often on their cellphone.

Not all of us know how to avoid upsetting stuff or block unwanted content. It requires technological tools - such as filters or the "panic button" that allows a person to immediately leave a website and unwanted contact; but it also requires guidance and support - most importantly from the parents and teachers - on how to use these tools and how to surf safely. In fact, the use of technological tools to block unwanted content or messages by young people is very low, unless they also receive advice in person from someone whom they trust.

Parents normally don't have a clue what children do or see on the internet. The study shows a huge gap between what children see and do on the internet, and what parents THINK their children do on the internet.

But then, more than 90% of parents say that they want far more information on internet safety than they actually get from the child’s school, from government or local authorities, from NGOs or the software and internet companies. 

So what does this leads us to? Again, the internet and the survey I talked about is an excellent source of information.

First - Schools.  Schools must competently discuss internet safety with children. Secondly - Parents.  Parents can ask their children what they saw while navigating, or what sites they used.  Again, schools must share information about internet safety with parents. Have special sessions with parents, and show them what to do or discuss with their children. Third - Industry. Especially as internet use becomes more personalized, greater responsibility rests with the industry to provide the easy-to-use tools to allow children to become resilient and use of the internet confidently. The industry has to provide its share for child protection - and this conference is an example on which way this can go.  Fourth, more attention needs to focus on the younger children, or the first-time users, as they are most bothered by unwanted content. Older children must help their young friends to learn how to be safe online. Finally, let me stress that the campaign for internet safety really has to go to every school and every village, and not stay in Tirana and the big cities alone. The education campaign on online safety must be as fast as the internet itself.

Thank you to the organizers for arranging this meeting, and I hope that it will lead to better protection of our children, all through Albania.



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