In a joint effort to create a safer digital environment for children, UNICEF and its partners marked the Safer Internet Day

09 February 2022
digitalno nasilje
UNICEF Srbija/2022

Belgrade, 8 February 2022 – Organized by UNICEF Serbia, the Safer Internet Day was marked with the involvement of key partners from the Government, private sector, regulators and policy-makers who work jointly on creating a safe digital environment for children. Today’s discussion and the partners gathered around this important topic show that we can join forces to create the conditions for a safer digital environment for children. The meeting was opened by the Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Tatjana Matic, and the UNICEF Representative in Serbia, Deyana Kostadinova.

The development of digital technologies enables children to learn, socialize and have fun, but at the same time, it confronts them with numerous risks. It is important for risks mitigation measures to be balanced with children’s rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy. Keeping children informed and engaged and empowering them with the skills to use the internet safely is a critical line of defence. Aware of the increased risks posed by the digital era for the safety of children and youth and the need to respond to them, today’s conference emphasized the importance of the integrated creation of adequate solutions for overcoming digital risks.

“The pandemic has negatively affected our lives in many different ways but there is one positive legacy of it – the accelerated shift to digital services and platforms, mostly in finance, education, health and remote work. As digital technology continues to advance, more attention is being given to defining the rules and norms that govern the internet. However, effective protection requires joint actions by all stakeholders – the governments, businesses, international organizations, parents associations and others, because the increased internet use can put children at greater risk of online harms such as sexual exploitation and cyberbullying. It is our responsibility to mitigate those risks and always keep in mind children’s vulnerability, while at the same time, the measures to mitigate risks should be balanced with children’s rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy”, said UNICEF Representative in Serbia Deyana Kostadinova.

The rights of the child guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also apply in the digital world, as do the commitments of the government and the business community to ensure that children can exercise their rights.

“Children and young people at the earliest age are at the centre of Serbia’s digital policy and that is why marking the Safer Internet Day is important primarily to encourage the use of the internet and other information and communication technologies and tools, but with emphasis on the proper content selection and safety. The goal that stands before us, especially at the time when the pandemic has abruptly shifted the entire society to online platforms, especially the youngest ones, is to raise awareness among them of the advantages of modern technologies, as well as the safety risks that need to be taken into account. The Ministry of Telecommunications is continuously working on the development of digital literacy of children and youth, as well as their parents and teachers, with the aim of prevention and education, it implements projects and campaigns for smart and safe use of new technologies in education, as well as infrastructure development projects in primary schools that enable children to utilize all the advantages of new technologies in the modern society.

The National Contact Centre established at the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications in 2017 represents a unique place for providing advice on child safety online, as well as the address for sending reports of harmful, inappropriate or illegal content and behaviour on the internet. This is so far the only institutional mechanism in the region that deals with the prevention and response to harming children in the digital environment, and it provides the opportunity for citizens to contact us free of charge via the hotline or the online platform Smart and Safe”, said Tatjana Matic, the Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications.

The private sector has both a direct and indirect impact on children and can help inform and empower children to develop skills for “digital resilience” – in other words, the knowledge of how to move and respond to risks.

The panel Child Safety on the Internet gathered the following participants: A1 – Djordje Vuksanovic (Senior Director for Transformation), SBB – Iva Gajic (Public Relations Director), Telekom Srbija – Mila Milenkovic (Director of the Strategy Department), Telenor Serbia – Milica Begenisic (Senior Expert for Sustainable Development and Event Organization), Music Star– Igor Maric and Emina Bekovic from the National Contact Centre for Child Safety on the Internet at the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications.

“In light of the growing number of cases of digital violence in our country and the region, which very often leaves tragic consequences, as a socially responsible company, Music Star invites all its artists and the fans to join the campaign #celebratelife which aims to raise awareness of digital violence among young people and its harmful effects on mental health. Very often, it is their favourite music artists that have the greatest influence on young people. Music is an art, the expression of every generation, and as such, it should have a positive impact on our mood and our lives. That is why we want our artists and fans to celebrate life, and to raise their voices against all forms of violence, especially violence on the internet, which affects them the most”, said Igor Maric from Music Star.

Panellists agreed that regardless of the market competitiveness, they want to join forces and pool resources and work together to contribute to a safer digital environment for children and young people.

The second panel, titled Stereotypes in Advertising and the Impact of Marketing on Children, organized jointly by UNICEF and the National Association for Ethical Standards in Advertising (NAESO), was dedicated to avoiding stereotypes and prejudices in advertising, which affect the creation of attitudes among children and youth from an early age, especially in terms of gender equality and the creation of unattainable imperatives of beauty and measures of success of individuals. The messages reaching children through marketing and commercial content, which are not intended directly for them, have a particular impact, because, as a rule of thumb, parents find it harder to recognize them as potentially harmful to the safety of their children.

“Children and families are exposed to a large amount of advertising and media and it has been proven that gender stereotyping in marketing messages has a significant impact on children and youth. Discriminatory gender stereotypes can do harm by limiting the opportunities for both girls and boys or leading them to risky behaviours: with girls, socialization may lead to a reduced sense of control or limited education and economic opportunities, while with boys, socialization may lead to limited participation in family life or to gender-based violence. This year, NAESO and UNICEF will organize several workshops for advertisers, media, employees in the creative industries, who have the greatest impact on messages sent to children, with the aim of working together to raise awareness of implementing the ethical standards in market communications to promote the best practices in the context of responsible influence on children and youth”, said Vanda Kucera, Chair of the NAESO Steering Committee.

UNICEF presented its study on the impact of marketing on children and young people, conducted through the U-Report platform. According to this study, most surveyed young people believe that diversity should be promoted in the media and advertisements, primarily in terms of physical appearance (27%) and physical ability/disability (25%). Other responses cite ethnicity (13%), sexual orientation (13%) and economic status (12%).

There is a more pronounced position among young women (60%) in favour of promoting diversity, compared to young men. When asked which sex is more often shown in commercials as strong and successful, 68% of young people answered it is the male sex, while when asked which sex is more often shown in commercials in the kitchen, shopping, cleaning the house and helping children, 89% of respondents said it is the female sex. A large majority of surveyed young people of both sexes believes that Serbia should accept the Norwegian model of labelling retouched photos or photos with filters online. According to the results of the study, girls and boys are mostly not satisfied or are only partially satisfied with their physical appearance.

As the most common reasons for dissatisfaction with physical appearance, young respondents highlight unattainable beauty standards on social networks (59%) – with girls being the majority.

Future activities should be planned towards a more realistic portrayal of people, their lifestyles and habits, greater diversity, without discrimination and segregation with the wider promotion of different body types in commercials and media in order to raise the currently extremely low self-esteem (6%) of young people.

The scope of digital marketing is constantly expanding and we are witnessing the fact that the digital era often creates new gaps in the existing regulations and policies, which are designed to regulate traditional channels and that a new response is needed for the new, digital era. This panel gathered the following participants: professor Natasa Krstic, PhD, UNICEF consultant, Marija Ilic – Chair of the Steering Committee of the SGA (Serbian Gaming Association), MPC - Jelena Lesevic, marketing director, Nenad Radujevic director of the Fashion Studio Click and founder of the Belgrade Fashion Week, Ivana Pecic marketing director, DEXYCO and Milos Stojkovic from NAESO.

This panel discussion is the first activity organized within the partnership started by NAESO and UNICEF. The panellists expressed their satisfaction that this topic has created room for discussion about the importance of the marketing industry for children.

Media contacts

Jadranka Milanovic
Communication Officer
UNICEF Serbia
Tel: + 381 11 3602 104
Tel: +381 63 336 283

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For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia

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