Child online safety in the developing world
About the project
Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and UNICEF are in the beginning phases of a collaborative research project concerning the online safety risks to children in developing countries. The digital divide between developed and developing countries is narrowing, and while this brings many new opportunities and resources into the lives of young people, it also exposes new groups with less digital literacy to a range of cyber threats.
Many organizations are working to make information and communication technologies (ICT) available to children in developing countries to improve education and quality of life. While some of these groups acknowledge online safety as an issue that should be addressed in the future, this has not, as yet, been targeted as a priority. Because of basic resource constraints, the time and resources of the organizations are instead focused on increasing accessibility of ICT in these communities. We hope that this project will be an opportunity to provide the additional time and resources necessary to work towards solving the safety issues that have been identified but not yet addressed.
As of July 23rd, 2009, the community participation page is live and frequently updated (last update July 2010). An important part of our research relies on personal observations and experiences, and here you will find some questions designed to encourage this kind of dialogue that you can respond to. Read more about how you can contribute.
Literature review and findings
As a result of collaboration between the Berkman Center for and UNICEF, Berkman conducted a preliminary literature review of the existing body of research on these issues. The brief summary of our key findings have been published in the exploratory study Working Towards a Deeper Understanding of Digital Safety for Children and Young People in Developing Nations. The objectives of the exploratory study are threefold: First (and foremost), it seeks to raise awareness about issues related to digital safety for youth in developing nations. Second, it aims to provide a tentative map of these issues and give insights into the current state of the respective research based on an exploratory literature review. Third, the paper seeks to outline the contours of a research framework through a series of working hypotheses that might inform subsequent research efforts on these issues by connecting efforts in developing and industrialized nations.
There are few studies or recommendations specifically related to addressing technological safety issues for children in developing nations. Instead, we have approached the issue tangentially by looking to two main bodies of research: those related to technological safety for children in developed nations and those focusing on technological penetration and usage in developing nations. We have found a number of organizations, such as the ITU's Children and Youth Special Initiative, that have emphasized their commitment to ensuring a safe technological environment for children in the developing world, but have found only few organizations with education modules, policy recommendations, or explicit plans of action.
During our preliminary literature review, we found that studies in developed nations indicate that the biggest risks to children online are cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate or illegal material, and sexual or other abuse either over the Internet or in-person.
There seem to be three main approaches to protecting children online: technological measures, parental supervision, and digital literacy education.
- This category includes any kind of hardware- or software-based tool used to make the browsing experience more secure, such as content filtering, virtual sandboxes, and age/identity verification software. With these methods, it is important to consider issues like scope creep, over- and under-blocking of content, reliability of ID verification, and cost.
- Much of the literature and existing curriculum for online safety education focuses on the importance of parental involvement, advising parents and guardians how to protect their children. We must consider that Internet access points for children in the developing world are much more likely to be in a school or Internet cafe instead of the home, where parents are less likely present.
- The third approach centers on educating children about how they can take steps protect themselves online. Most existing digital literacy curricula aimed at children are not sufficiently comprehensive. However, this approach is promising because it helps reduce the reliance on a third party for protection, and can be adaptable from one country to the next based on individualized situations and needs.
The mobile market has taken off in developing countries, and there are many indications that mobile Internet is soon to follow. This is predicted to be the easiest, most accessible and cost-efficient way to provide Internet access in areas where the information environment is often underdeveloped because of a barriers like lack of infrastructure for fixed-line broadband, lack of accessible computers and electricity, competition, literacy requirements, regulations, and high costs. If the trend develops as expected, this could be a good opportunity to take actions to ensure children use this medium safely as many of them encounter it for the first time, encouraging the spread of best practices.
Further questions and action
This overall problem encompasses many more specific issues, and it will be important to take a multi-pronged approach. One of the next steps should be identifying the problems children in developing nations are facing and map these issues in the respective technological, social, and economic context; from there, we will be better equipped to develop tangible, accessible targeted solutions and resources. Drawing upon ideas from the ITU's Child Online Protection initiative, we will need to engage all levels of players: children, parents/educators, industry, and government.
Strategic Framework (2011)
Phase one: 1) Determine policies in place or in the process of development 2) Determine big obvious issues that need new policy solutions (gap analysis) & pursue some of them 3) Start a research process that is translational in nature (and other forms of capacity-building) 4) Advocate on an ongoing basis for attention to digital child safety issues and education of policy-making community, teachers, kids 5) Development of a knowledge network: FB group, wiki 6) Publish a pamphlet-type one-pager as a primer to the issues involved 7) Develop an assessment framework and process for successful policy interventions
Phase two: 1) Develop and implement a process for sharing of best practices by region etc. 2) Develop and implement a process for sharing data across regions 3) Develop and implement a process for integrating data into policy approaches
How you can contribute
Because the body of formal academic research on these topics is fairly limited, the information we can gain from the thoughts, experiences and observations of individuals is going to be a critical part of this project. We've developed a list of questions that follow our line of inquiry to serve as a starting point for this process. You can access that list here and add your responses directly to the wiki page, or send your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. We encourage anyone who is interested to take a few moments to participate.
This section contains links to many of the articles, studies, initiatives and organizations that we referenced in our literature review. If you are aware of any additional sources or information - including academic research, education modules, initiatives, conferences, or firsthand reports - please add them below.
Articles and research
- "BBC Wap use flourishing in Africa", BBC News, August 15, 2006.
- "Brazil: Amplified conversations to fight the Digital Crimes Bill Diego Casaes for Global Voices", Diego Casaes for Global Voices 2009.
- "Brazil's Experience in Obtaining ooperation from ISPs in the Fight Against Child Pornography", Gilberto Martins de Almeida 2009.
- "Bullying and Cyber Bullying in Schools: Need to address the Legal and Policy Vacuum in India", Halder & Jaishankar 2007.
- "Child Pornography: Model Legislation & Global Review", International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, 2008.
- "Child Pornography and Sexual Exploitation of Children Online", ECPAT International at the World Congress III, 2008.
- "Child Pornography in the Philippines", Trinidad, Psychosocial Trauma and Human Right Program, 2005.
- "The Children's and Young Person's Global Online Charter Supplementary Document", International Youth Advisory Congress, 2008.
- "China's Green Dam: The Implications of Government Control Encroaching on the Home PC", Faris / Roberts / Wang
- "The COPINE Project", Quayle, E IRISH PROBATION JOURNAL Volume 5, September 2008.
- "El combate contra la pornografía infantil en Internet: El caso de Costa Rica", Lemineur, 2006.
- "EU Kids Online"
- "First Youth Internet Safety Survey", Crimes Against Children Research Center, 2000.
- "The Global Information Society: a Statistical View", Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, April 2008.
- "Government imposes new surveillance system for Internet cafes", IFEX Alert - Report from China, October 27, 2008.
- "How Many Ways Can You Hurt Me? An Overview of Internet and Communication Technology Crimes Against Children - A Victim's Perspective", Cooper, S, 2009.
- "Internet Blocking: Balancing Cybercrime Responses in Democratic Societies", Callanan/Gercke/De Marco/Dries-Ziekenheiner 2009.
- "Internet Child Pornography and Young People in Dakar", International Development Research Centre, 2004.
- "Internet Use Among Chinese College Students: Implications for Sex Education and HIV Prevention ", Hong/Li/Mao/Bonitastanton, 2007.
- "Is there an ideal type? Development planning and evaluation models for social inclusion projects:Digital Doorways", Stilman, Prato CIRN 2008 Community Informatics Conference: ICTs for Social Inclusion: What is the Reality? Refereed Paper.
- "Mobile Broadband connects the unconnected in Tanzania", Global Systems Mobile Alliance, 2008.
- "Morality in Cyberspace: A Comparison of Chinese and U.S. Youth's Beliefs about Acceptable Online Behavior", Jackson/Zhao/Qiu/Kolenic/Fitzgerald/Harold/von Eye, Proceedings of the 41st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2008.
- "Notice Regarding the Pre-Installation of “Green” Online Filtering Software on Computers", Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China Notice No. 226 2009.
- "Online child safety from sexual abuse in India", Mathew, 2009.
- "On-line safety for students in developing countries", EduTech: A World Bank Blog on ICT Use in Education, October 2, 2009.
- "Our Children At Risk Online: The Example of Thailand", ECPAT International, 2003.
- "The problem of cyber bullying amongst school students in India: The loopholes in IT Act", Halder & Jaishankar 2007.
- "Regional Overview on Child Sexual Abuse Images through the use of Information and Communication Technologies in Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine", ECPAT International, 2008.
- "The Role of the Private Sector, Particularly ISPs and Internet Café Owners,as Active Partners in Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in the Philippines", An on-going Case Study by UNICEF Philippines.
- "Safeguarding Children in a Digital World", Becta, 2006.
- "Safer Children in a Digital World", Byron Review, 2008.
- "Second Youth Internet Safety Survey", Crimes Against Children Research Center, 2006.
- "Sex, phones and youth culture: Pornoaksi and the fear of new media in present day Indonesia", Barendregt, Asia Culture Forum 2006.
- "Strategies to prevent and fight child pornography on Developing Countries", IGF 2008 Workshop 36 Report
- "Technical Solutions: Implementation of filtering of child sexual abuse images in operator networks", GSMA/Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content, 2008.
- "The 2009 Status of Brazil's Legislation on the Fight Against Cybercrime", Eduardo Azeredo 2009.
- "UK Children Go Online", Economic & Social Research Council, 2005.
- "Use of Information and Communication Technology by the Worlds Children & Youth", International Telecommunications Union, 2008.
- "Violence Against Children in Cyberspace", ECPAT, 2005.
- "World Information Society Report", International Telecommunications Union, 2007.
- "The World in 2009: ICT Facts and Figures", International Telecommunications Union, 2009.
- "Wots ur ASLR? Adolescent girlsâ™ use of cellphones in Cape Town" Bosch, Paper submitted to the e/merge 2008 online conference proceedings, 2008.
Initiatives and policy guidelines
- Child and Youth Initiative, International Telecommunications Union, 2009.
- Child Safety Online Program in Ukraine, Microsoft/ECPAT International/others, 2008.
- Child Safety Online Action Plan for Mauritius, National Computer Board, Government of Mauritius, 2009.
- Guidelines on Child Online Protection (Draft), International Telecommunications Union, 2009.
- Internet Safety for Children Campaign, High Technology Crime Investigation Association, 2000-2005.
- Child Safety, Google, 2009.
- CyberPeace Initiative, The Cyber Peace Initiative, The Suzanne Mubarak Womenâs International Peace Movement, 2009.
- New Zealand Model for Internet Safety Education
- NetSmartz, 2009.
- Online Child Sexual Abuse: The Law Enforcement Response, ECPAT International at the World Congress III, 2008.
- The Children's and Young Person's Global Online Charter, International Youth Advisory Congress, 2008.
- World Summit on the Information Society, 2003 & 2005.
- Center for Children and Technology, of Education Development Center, Inc
- Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
- Child Rights Information Network
- Childnet International
- ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes)
- Family Online Safety Institute
- Global Knowledge Partnership
- Global Voices
- Intel's World Ahead Program
- Internet Education and Resource Network (iEARN)
- Internet Governance Forum
- Internet Solutions For Kids, Inc.
- Navega Protegido en Internet
- One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)
- Omar Dengo Foundation
- Red Barnet
- SchoolNet Africa
- Virtual Global Taskforce
- The World Bank
- World Education
- World Wide Web Foundation
- The Cyber Peace Initiative of the Suzanne Mubarak Women's International Peace Movement