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 speech during the National Conference on Safe Internet for Children organized by the Microsoft Albania on 17 February 2012

I want to share a figure with you. 75 billion Dollar. This is 75 with 9 zeroes. In terms of Lek, this is 1 million times 7.5 million Lek. If we were to distribute this money to every person in Albania, everyone gets 3 million Lek.

According to the New York Times, this is the amount that is expected to be paid for shares of Facebook, in the coming days or weeks. How is it possible? Facebook is a small company, it only has a couple of hundred employees, and it doesn’t have a lot of buildings, cars or computers. It doesn’t manufacture anything. It doesn’t collect fees from you for using Facebook. 

To make money, Facebook uses information about you, about yourself. And so do other internet services, Google or other search engines. They know you, and they know a lot about you. The advertisements on your Facebook page are not random, but they are selected because the companies behind the internet know you like them.

In most cases, this is not bad. For instance, you tell your computer or internet access who is your sports hero, your favourite music band, or fashion, or political affairs, and you will be showered with news whenever there is something that interests you.

There is a way to find out, on the internet, your strengths, how much money you have, and your weak spots. Through the internet, one can know where you shop, what pictures you like to watch, or whether you want to lose weight. And if you don’t know how to surf the web properly, you may become a victim of crime and abuse.

As usual, children are most at risk.

Internet access among children is very widespread in Albania. 80 per cent of children with access to the internet do so at home or on the mobile phone – in privacy. Almost all children are a member of a social network – freely sharing information about themselves. Eager to make more friends, half of all children share fresh information about themselves every day.

They try to make themselves attractive and thus invite contact from those that they never would want to meet in real life. Many of them do fall prey to stalkers out to abuse and violate children. The most common risk reported by children themselves are communications with people they haven't met.

The free sharing of explicit images that may disturb children is a serious offence. Even worse abuses include the invitation or pressures related to child pornography. This is one of the most hideous crimes. It is not easy to detect these crimes, and children usually get through another equally traumatizing experience by the disclosure and its consequences. And the images stay on the internet forever.

We welcome recent changes to the penal code in relation to child pornography. In addition, we need to prepare our children, and must get the support of the IT industry, including internet service providers, the online payment industry, the legislator, in order to keep our children safe.

We know that the use of technological tools by young people is very low - such as filters or panic buttons that allow a person to immediately leave a website or an unwanted contact. For the industry and hardware and software developers, this means that the tools are not easy to use or visible enough.

We look to teachers who need to be able to competently speak about the internet and related risks, who are internet savvy and can provide guidance and support to children about it. Schools and local authorities must help parents to better understand what is going on in the cyber world. Most internet use happens at home, and parents need to talk to their children of what they may see.

We have to have zero tolerance against cyber crime, especially crimes directed at or abusing children, with clear definitions about the child, consent, child pornography or child abuse images. Good examples and standards of appropriate legislation exist in other countries.

The internet connects us all, for the better or for the worse. Albania cannot stay an island, assuming that threats only exist outside its borders. We need to be as rigorous in our legislation and its enforcement as all the countries whose community Albania seeks to join.



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