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Protecting children online: Internet safety with Sango

With one in three children connected to the Internet, many of those growing up today are active participants in the online world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of children’s lives, affecting everything from how they learn to how they play and socialize. According to UNICEF, more than 1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by school closures worldwide. A Around the world, many children have connected to the Internet for the first time, unsupervised.

Surfing the Internet gives children numerous new opportunities. But it also exposes them to potential safety risks. Both these factors make children key stakeholders in matters of child online protection. All too often, however, they are left out of crucial cybersecurity conversations.

Children need to feel empowered when accessing cyberspace. One way to achieve this is by educating them about their rights and responsibilities online. Accessible, child-friendly pedagogic tools can encourage children to explore the Internet in safer and more proactive ways.

Online safety for kids, by kids

Empowering children online involves protecting them from any risks and harms they might encounter there. To meet this need, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has partnered with Italian energy company ENI S.p.A. and global accountancy Deloitte to create “Online Safety with Sango”, an online training course designed to empower children to protect themselves in the digital sphere.

Not only is the course for children but, just as importantly, it was developed together with children. Children were also part of the development of its key character, Sango – short for Sangophone, ITU’s child online protection mascot. 

Sango guides the audience through five different lessons in a fun and friendly way. Tablets and smart phones are presented as “houses”, with different apps as digital “rooms”. This metaphor was designed to help children understand the importance of keeping their digital “house” and personal data protected and safe.

First announced in May 2021, “Online Safety with Sango” addresses child online safety through five different lessons on key topics, from the safe use of social media to video streaming services. Aimed directly at an audience of young web users, the topics reflect the needs of today’s children and the most pressing concerns when it comes to their safety, based on priorities defined with children in the ITU Guidelines on Child Online Protection and evidence from Deloitte’s cybersecurity expertise.

“Online Safety with Sango” can be implemented as an educational tool in various settings, with the main video lessons – along with accompanying presentations, and a poster and flyer available in the six official United Nations languages to facilitate worldwide reach.

ITU, ENI and Deloitte aim to expand their range of educational resources for children going forward, and to create a second series of “Online Safety with Sango” with multiple partners focused on children’s rights, participation, and empowerment online.

Watch the first episode of “Online Safety with Sango” here.

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