Unicef and Grameenphone of Telenor Group have joined hands to train 1.2 million children and adolescents to stay safe online.
Both sides signed a partnership agreement on Thursday setting out an ambitious strategy to further strengthen and scale online protection for children in Bangladesh.The internet is a powerful tool for children that can support their development through access to information, education, empowerment and participation, according to Unicef.
But the internet, it said, may also expose children to violence, exploitation and abuse through inappropriate content and behaviour online.
The project titled ‘Strengthening and Scaling Child Online Protection in Bangladesh’ will train children and adolescents to stay safe online.
Sensitising parents is also a key to the project objective as some parents prevent their children from accessing the internet due to fears about what they could be exposed to and this denies children the opportunity to benefit from the internet, said Unicef.
The project will train 400,000 parents, teachers and caregivers to support child online protection.
“Unicef works to ensure that every child in Bangladesh is protected and free from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse. All children in Bangladesh must be able to use the internet safely by being equipped with the skills and being able to use the internet in an enabling environment,” said Dara Johnston, Unicef Deputy Representative.“We hope this partnership will institutionalise the key top tips about child online protection and establish the foundations of ensuring that these become a key part of education for children in Bangladesh,” Johnston added.
The project will also reach 20 million people through an integrated communication campaign which supports awareness of child online protection and will engage at least 50,000 people in taking supportive action.
The project will convene policy stakeholders to agree on a plan to mainstream awareness on child online protection in Bangladesh.
Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Grameenphone Ltd Ole Bjorn Sjulstad said, “As we move into the age of data, online safety has become a global issue for the people of all ages, especially children, how it’s impacting our society and our future generations. But we cannot ignore how the internet has become a necessity for a child's learning, development and growth.”
He said they, at Grameenphone, initiate this Child Online Safety campaign every year to strike a balance and create a safer digital experience for children. “We want our future generations to be equipped and well versed about their responsibilities over the internet. It’s important that they take advantage of internet for leaning and understand the significance of being smart and using their heart.”
The partnership will also address offline protection issues through its focus on creating sustainable and embedded solutions inside schools.
This will support creating a forum or Safe Clubs within participating schools where child protection issues can be addressed.
Telenor Group Vice President Manisha Dogra said Telenor Group believes that connectivity can empower societies and reduce inequalities.
“As part of our global commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10 Reducing Inequalities, we are committed to educating four million children on child online safety across our markets by 2020 and today’s partnership is an important contributor to this endeavour,” Dogra said at the signing.
Unicef Bangladesh, Grameenphone and Telenor have been collaborating since 2018 to help ensure children, parents and caregivers are aware of how to use the internet safely and to minimise risks through the programme titled “Be Smart, Use Heart”.
The programme completed its nationwide outreach for more than 400,000 students, aged between 11 to 16 years, and over 70,000 teachers, parents and guardians.
The programme was designed to build better understanding, awareness and sensitivity around the safety measure that both students and guardians can adopt to ensure a positive digital learning experience.