Children are among the most active -- and most vulnerable -- participants online. According to recent surveys, over 60 percent of children and teenagers talk in chat rooms on a daily basis. Three in four children online are willing to share personal information about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services. One in five children will be targeted by a predator or pedophile each year. Protecting children in cyberspace is, therefore, clearly our duty.
"Children are very resourceful in making the most of online services such as social networking sites and mobile phones," said Viviane Reding, European commissioner for information society and media. "But many still underestimate the hidden risks of using these, from cyber-bullying to sexual grooming online. Today, I call upon all decision-makers, from both the public and the private sector, to listen and learn from children and to improve awareness strategies and tools to protect minors." Reding added: "The Internet binds the whole world together. The safety of children who use it is a concern for everyone. I am therefore very happy that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is associated with us in doing this, on Safer Internet Day, and all year round."
"Child online safety must be on the global agenda," said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. "We must ensure that everyone is aware of the dangers for children online. And we want to promote and strengthen the many outstanding efforts that are being made around the world, such as the Safer Internet Program, to limit these dangers."
This year, the sixth edition of Safer Internet Day includes more than 500 events in 50 countries worldwide. ITU and the European Commission (EC) will collaborate on this and future events, such as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, May 17, 2009, which is dedicated to "Protecting Children in Cyberspace". The EC's Directorate General for Information Society and Media has declared its full support for ITU's Child Online Protection (COP) Initiative.
The EC's Ins@fe Network will launch a Safer Internet Day virtual exhibition which will host pavilions where visitors can learn more about initiatives undertaken by the 50 participating countries. ITU will host an online pavilion in support of EC's efforts to raise awareness among youngsters aged 12 to 17 regarding the risks they may face online.
ITU's motto is "committed to connecting the world", but we are also committed to connecting the world responsibly. That means working together to ensure cyber-security, enable cyber-peace, and -- more importantly -- protect children online. While child online protection programs exist in many developed countries, there are very few in the developing world today -- and very little coordination between them.
ITU established the Global Cybersecurity Agenda and launched the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative. COP aims to bring together partners from all sectors of the global community to ensure a safe and secure online experience for children everywhere.