As the world comes under much concern of keeping children safe online, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests implementing school-based educational programmes that have multiple sessions, promote interaction among youth and engage parents.
In the new report, What works to prevent online violence against children, the WHO presents ways to address the growing worldwide concern of keeping children safe online, with a specific focus on two forms of online violence: child sexual abuse including grooming and sexual image abuse; and cyber aggression and harassment in the form of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, hacking and identity theft.
Pointing out that educational programmes have shown to increase safety and health in general, the report said that they are successful at preventing violence against children overall, and they are effective for preventing one form of online Violence Against Children (VAC) in particular – cyberbullying (both victimization and perpetration).
- Programmes are more successful when they use multiple and varied modalities for engaging children and promoting learning. “These include, for example, videos, games, readings, posters and infographics, guided discussions, as well as leader instruction,”it said.
- Repeated exposure, greater intensity. Prevention programmes are more successful when they involve more lessons, more message exposures, more reminders, and follow-ups.
- When children actively engage with each other, it is likely that it increases attention from participants and may also activate and reveal peer norms against bullying and abusive behaviour.
- programmes are more successful when they get active engagement from the larger school or community, including support from school leadership.
- Parental involvement; The most common modes of parental involvement are via homework materials and activity suggestions provided to parents. Informational gatherings tend to be sparsely attended and because of this have not been found to be effective.
- Problem-solving skills. Reviews of successful prevention education programmes identify problem solving
- skills as one of the most frequently included elements. These components engage children in thinking through situations of uncertainty, conflict, and crisis to choose modes of effective response using stories, role-plays or other methods.
- Assertiveness, self-efficacy, resistance to peer pressure; It teaches the skills to resist peer pressure and problematic propositions, amplify internal hesitations, and to say no or to escape from problematic situations. It also teaches assertive body language and distinguishes assertive from aggressive responses.
- Empathy, perspective-taking, difference appreciation; This helps children and adolescents to understand and accurately recognize the feelings and needs of other people, especially in situations of conflict
- Self-regulation, emotion management, impulse control.
- Conflict resolution, de-escalation; These components teach children to identify escalating conflicts or threats and provide them with management tools such as withdrawal, acknowledgement of conflicting needs and the other person’s point of view, avoidance of insults, reaching a compromise, and seeking a third-party’s assistance
- Help-seeking as a skill needs more than simply urging young people to seek help. It also generally includes training in identifying who their trusted helpers are, overcoming some of the barriers to help-seeking (such as embarrassment), and practicing the identification of problems that warrant help-seeking
- Social norm instruction is effective, particularly with adolescents
- Comprehensive forms of sex education can reduce physical and sexual aggression, in particular homophobic bullying, and dating and partner violence
- The need for more violence prevention programmes that integrate content about online dangers with offline violence prevention, given the overlap of these problems and their common approaches to prevention less emphasis on stranger danger as strangers are not the sole or even the predominant offenders in online violence against children more
- emphasis on acquaintance and peer perpetrators, who are responsible for a majority of offenses
- more attention to healthy relationship skills, since romance and intimacy-seeking are major sources of vulnerability to online violence.
Children can also be put at risk when tech companies breach their privacy to collect data for marketing purposes. Child-targeted marketing through apps – and the excessive screen time it often results in – can compromise a child’s healthy development. UNICEF works to make the internet a safe place for children to learn, socialize and express themselves. They partner with governments to advocate for necessary regulation, and with tech companies to promote the use of acceptable safety measures on their platforms. They also support ministries of education to teach children digital-literacy and online-safety skills.