Parents determine child’s early experience online

Better parenting means a safer internet for children

20 June 2019
UNICEF Representative in Malaysia speaking at the Digital Parenting Forum
Marianne Clark-Hattingh, UNICEF Representative in Malaysia speaking at the Digital Parenting and Child Online Protection Forum in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 JUNE 2019 – On the occasion of the Parenting Month, National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), UNICEF, parents, and other government partners concerned with child well-being came together at a forum to discuss digital parenting for better child online protection. Parents have recognized this challenge, and their interest, concerns, and request for support to protect children has led to the organization of this Forum. 

“Based on Malaysia Family Wellbeing Index (IKK) 2016 study by LPPKN, ‘Family and Communication Technology’ domain recorded second lowest score at 6.38 out of 10.  The IKK 2016 study showed that more efforts are needed to improve the score and instil awareness on the issue of child online protection among Malaysians parents. Creating awareness and imparting useful digital parental know-how are important so as not to limit children from the technology and online activity but instead recognising the potential benefits of empowering children in online activity especially for knowledge gain, social interaction and self-expression,” said Abdul Shukur Abdullah, LPPKN General Director in his opening remarks.

Parents or other caregivers typically provide children with their first device and decide at what age a child is allowed to start using the internet. Therefore, parents play a key role in determining a child’s experiences of the internet and the kinds of activities they engage in online, noting however that controlling children’s exposure or use of the internet is a significant challenge, given the current easy access to devices.

As part of the global Parenting Month initiative, UNICEF is highlighting the role that parents play in ensuring that all children are protected from abuse and exploitation and can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

“This parenting month, we need to remember that childhood has changed. Children are online, all the time and everywhere on their mobile devices. Access to the internet promises better access to information, self-expression, and participation, however children are also exposed to bullying, abuse, and sexual exploitation” said Marianne Clark-Hattingh, UNICEF Representative in Malaysia. “We know that parents are the most important people in determining a child’s early experience of the internet. Therefore, they must be equipped with digital parenting skills, so that their children grow up to be responsible digital citizens. We are grateful for our partnership with LPPKN to enhance collaboration in supporting parents.”

Digital parenting is part of UNICEF’s efforts in the region to protect children online. The digital parenting forum brought together stakeholders from government, academic, and civil society sectors, alongside parents to discuss ways to empower and protect children online. UNICEF has been working on child online protection in the East Asia and Pacific region with funding from the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. Effective parenting practices that may empower parents in terms of digital parenting were identified shared, with contributions from global leading experts on the topic of violence prevention and digital parenting: Emma Day (Child Protection Consultant, UNICEF), Dr Jamie M. Lachman (University of Oxford, UK), Jasmina Byrne (UNICEF Policy Lab, New York) and Professor Sonia Livingstone (London School of Economics, UK).

The Forum guides the development of a new training module on Digital Parenting and Child Online Protection for the Semarak Kasih Parenting Programme. LPPKN, in partnership with University Putra Malaysia (UPM), Maestral International, and UNICEF, has revised and strengthened a number of training modules to guide parenting support interventions. The development of training material focused on child online protection responds to a growing need for more effective support for parenting in the digital world.

UNICEF works with the government of Malaysia, and other partners to create a digital environment in which children feel safe while online so that they reap the rewards of going online while being aware of the risks.



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