Belgrade, 12 March 2019 – Most children are first exposed to digital devices at the age of four.
Younger primary school-age children start using computer and telephone approximately at the age of five and children below the age of five already at the age of three, while two thirds of parents and preschool teachers lack sufficient knowledge and skills to protect them from potential abuse. These are the findings of a research conducted within the Family Safety Net project launched by UNICEF and Telenor company, and implemented by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and the Uzice Child Rights Centre NGO. Based on the research, the first digital guide to online safety “Children and Internet – Smart from the Start” has been developed in Serbia. The guide is intended for parents/guardians, preschool and school teachers of children aged of four to eight and for children and all those participating in their education and upbringing. Its aim is to provide information and support to preschool and younger primary school-age children in order for them to use digital devices and the internet in a safe and constructive manner. As part of the project, a series of cartoons aimed at the young children has also been developed.
“Children are starting to use digital devices and the internet at an increasingly young age. At the same time, parents and teachers do not have sufficient knowledge to guide them how to use the digital technology in a constructive way and how to help them keep safe online. This digital guide offers them plenty of concrete advice, as well as a digital age glossary, while cartoons are available to children, as well as the possibility of testing their digital literacy “, said Regina de Dominicis, UNICEF Representative in Serbia. She extended special thanks to the Telenor company which has been UNICEF’s partner for a number of years in the efforts to create a safe digital environment for children.
Vesna Nedeljkovic, Assistant Minister of Education for Preschool and Primary Education, recalled that back in 2017 this Ministry developed a Teachers’ Digital Competencies Framework which served as a framework for activities aimed at strengthening teachers’ digital competencies.
"In this digital world, our challenge is twofold: how to secure maximum benefit of the internet for every child and mitigate the damage that may result from online violence. One of the Ministry’s priorities is to develop the digital literacy and digital competencies of children in order for them to be informed, engaged and safe online, and how to use digital technologies in a sound manner and for the purpose of learning “, stated Vesna Nedeljkovic.
The private sector, especially in the area of technology and telecommunications, has a special responsibility and a unique opportunity to shape the impact of digital technology on children. Telenor, UNICEF’s longstanding partner, is one of the best examples.
“At Telenor, we take a strategic approach to safe internet and online technology use by children and young people. From 2012 to date, we have educated more than 35,000 children on safe behaviour online, with strong support from the Serbian Government, UNICEF and numerous partners. The digital guide that we have launched today provides practical knowledge and is available to every parent, teacher and child in just a few of clicks. We believe that it makes a solid foundation for a safe and positive digital environment for children and families in Serbia “, said Mike Michel, CEO of Telenor Serbia.
The digital guide to online safety of children will be used in schools and preschool institutions, as well as by parents’ and preschool teacher's associations across Serbia. It is available to all interested parents at http://digitalni-vodic.ucpd.rs/
“Children’s rights that are enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also apply in the digital world, as do the obligations of the Government and adults who are responsible for enabling children to exercise and enjoy their rights. The guide contributes to the protection of children's rights, which face a major challenge in this fourth digital revolution – primarily when it comes to the right of the child to protection from violence and discrimination, protection from harmful and inappropriate content, protection of privacy, but also the right to freedom of expression and availability of information that is of importance for children’s development, the right to quality education, play, free time and cultural activities , stated Jelena Zunic Cicvaric of the Uzice Child Rights Centre.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia