Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

ITU Telecom World 2012


   Locking the Digital Door : Protecting The Privacy of Children Online

Opening Remarks


17 October 2012, Dubai, UAE


Deborah Taylor Tate, Special Envoy for ITU Child Online Protection
Dave Miles, Director EMEA, Family Online Safety Institute, United States
Maxwell Thomas, CEO, The Cyber Guardian, Australia
Robin Blake, Executive Director ICT & Society Division, ICT Qatar

Distinguished participants
Dear friends,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be with you here this afternoon to address important issues relating to protecting the privacy of children online.

Firstly, however, I would very much like to thank Cyber Guardian for championing ITU’s Child Online Protection initiative, and for sponsoring this session in Dubai; we very much appreciate your support.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, information and communication technologies, ICTs, are the drivers of the world economy. Even in times of financial crisis, the ICT sector has been flourishing; and some companies have become the leading generators of wealth and business opportunities.

The ICT sector is opening up new frontiers, and the mobile revolution has shown phenomenal growth. With new business opportunities, new opportunities also arise for young people to shine with their inherent creativity, innovation and dynamism.

At the same time, the dramatic changes associated with the spread of ICTs also brings new risks and threats to safety and security – especially for children, who are among the most vulnerable members of our societies.

As children and teenagers venture into the wide-open world of cyberspace – surfing the net, drinking in the encyclopaedic breadth of content, accessing video libraries, entering chat rooms and building social networks – they are exposed to some of the worst predators and criminals from around the world.

Digital life is very public – and all too often, kids don't protect their privacy. What they do online will create digital footprints that linger and persist. In the digital era, supposedly transient information – such as pictures, messages or video content – can all too easily resurface years later.

If kids aren't careful, their reputations can get away from them, and third parties can access what they might have thought was private information.

A current area of concern for Child Online Protection is the recent and unforeseen increase of mobile application stores with uncontrolled access – often managed by non-regulated entities.

The expansion of social networks is also exposing children to new vulnerabilities, such as inappropriate material, grooming, luring, cyberbullying, harassment and discrimination.

Kids may also become addicted to the online world – with the risks and lost opportunities that this entails.

We have all seen how the new generation of young social networkers have a different attitude towards protecting and sharing information.

They are more likely to reveal personal data to others. They are also unlikely to take steps to keep information restricted to specific groups, such as their friends.

In a few years, I am firmly convinced that privacy-conscious people will become the minority – which of course is an ideal prospect for predators and criminals.

It is therefore our collective obligation to combat this scourge and to examine solutions that enlist the collaboration of today’s youth – the leaders of tomorrow – to build a safer and more secure online environment.

The key is to begin with our young people.

We must provide them with the opportunities to steer away from crime – as well as to protect them from criminals.

National governments, the private sector, donors, civil society and educationists must share research findings as well as real world solutions to empower our children across all digital platforms.

Ladies and gentlemen

Protecting children in cyberspace is clearly the duty of each and every one of us.

This is why I launched the Child Online Protection initiative, which is an integral part of ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda. COP is in line with ITU’s mandate to strengthen cybersecurity and to establish the foundations for a safe and secure cyberworld for future generations.

COP aims to promote global awareness on the importance of child safety in the online world; develop practical tools to assist governments, industry and educators; and share their experiences in working to ensure a safe and secure online experience for children everywhere.

COP has been established as an international collaborative network for action to promote the online protection of children worldwide by providing guidance on safe online behaviour in conjunction with other UN agencies and partners.

Over the past couple of years we have moved from the concept to reality, impacting and positively affecting children everywhere, sharing research findings as well as real world solutions to empower our children across all digital platforms – safely and responsibly.

Let me therefore urge leaders, experts, private companies, civil society, and all of you gathered here today, to continue this great work, and to fulfil the dream of making cyberspace a safe, healthy and productive environment – especially for our children and youth.

Thank you.