On “Safer Internet Day”, the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is offering a message of greater safety for children on the Internet, but could this translate into controls that undermine freedom and empower both democratic and despotic authorities? Perhaps it is too early to judge but from fear of terrorism to threats directed at our children, there appears an ever more persistent campaign at regulation, and frequently coming from governments whose respect for dissent and diversity is also subject to question.
The ITU’s Secretary General, Houlin Zhao explained: “Child online safety is now much higher on the political agenda of many countries, and has become a top priority for a wide variety of stakeholders, including businesses and financial institutions.” Undoubtedly the youth of today are ever more engaged and technologically savvy. “In 2013, ITU calculated that 30 per cent of the world’s youth were “digital natives” – defined as 15-24 year old with five or more years of experience online. This ‘digital native’ segment represents 5.2 per cent of the global population and by 2018, it will double in the developing world, growing from 22.8 per cent to 53 per cent of young Internet users.” Perhaps the Internet is one venue where parents may be less effective than their children, at least when it comes to navigation and supervision. Parents may need help but do we want paternalistic governments? We want more security against threats to our children to incitement to hate and terror, and “Safer Internet Day” is a positive reminder. Nonetheless, with “safer” we also should emphasize save freedom on the internet.
Read more from the ITU on Safer Internet Day – “Let’s Create a Better Internet Together” – COP Partners’ Initiatives for a Safer Internet”