Safer internet day 2023
Your excellences, Minister Jovanović, Minister Ružić, ladies and gentlemen,
On my way to this event this morning I tried to imagine how a child’s life would look like today without a mobile, a computer, without access to digital technologies. And I couldn’t.
Children’s lives are more and more shaped by their engagement in the digital world as digital technologies become tools for accessing key education, health, and social services. They also provide access to information and, in that way, empower children and young people to be informed and become active advocates of their rights.
More than 175,000 children worldwide go online for the first time every day – that’s a new child every half second! In Serbia, research has shown that 86% of children and teens aged 9 to 17 use the Internet daily.
Digital access exposes children to a wealth of benefits and opportunities, but also to risks and harms, including access to harmful content, sexual exploitation and abuse, cyberbullying, and misuse of their private information.
In Serbia, approximately half of children don’t know how to change their privacy settings on social media networks, thus exposing themselves to possible abuse and bullying. In fact, 16% of children in Serbia have experienced cyberbullying!
Stress and trauma related to violence present mental health risks. Online violence can have an even bigger toxic potential since the number of peers witnessing it can be much bigger. The other reason is that a child cannot leave the space where the violence is happening - online violence moves with the child, in his or her phone. Stress and trauma can activate responses with biological and mental health consequences that can last a lifetime. Therefore, preventing exposure to violence in childhood is essential!
Nowadays children are going online at ever younger ages, that’s why it is crucial that they are empowered to use online technologies in a safe manner; to have helplines where both children and parents can obtain advice; and to be able to report possible incidents of abuse.
So, what should we do to ensure all this?
We need to have children’s online protection integrated within national child protection policies and Serbian Gov has already done this trough the National Strategy for the Prevention and Protection of Children from Violence and the National Digital Strategy.
We need to ensure that these policies are fully operational - for every child, throughout the country. Particularly when it comes to safeguarding children’s privacy and identities online; and advancing ethical standards and practices.
Enabling a safer internet for children requires collaboration across the entire ecosystem, including the private sector and business community. Companies bring valuable expertise, technology, and resources to support children's safety in the digital age. UNICEF has been working with the telecommunications industry for over a decade, co-creating initiatives such as the Digital Book.
Through national campaigns, such as the “Stop hate on the net” campaign which UNICEF implemented in partnership with Ringier, the Ministry of Telecommunications and all the major telecommunication companies in Serbia, we can raise awareness and promote responsible online behaviour. Only by educating parents, teachers, and caregivers how navigate and respond to digital risks, we can protect children.
UNICEF will continue to work jointly with the Ministries of Telecommunications and Education and other relevant ministries, as well as with business sector partners to increase child safety online!
Prisutni smo u više od 190 zemalja i teritorija, a kroz sve što radimo promovišemo prava i dobrobit dece, posebno one koja su najugroženija i isključena. U potpunosti se finansiramo od dobrovoljnih priloga pojedinaca, država i vlada, fondacija i kompanija.