Child Online Protection Workshop

Child Online Protection speech by the Chief Censor Mr Steven Mala:

Protecting children online is a global challenge, which requires a global approach. It gives me good feeling to see international actors like UNICEF convening this round table discussion with the government to map out existing national efforts to tackle online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

Prior to the introduction of information and communication technologies in Papua New Guinea, abuse on children were physical and generally at the hands of their immediate family on disciplinary grounds.
Slowly over the years this trend of discipline was outlawed giving rise to protection of the rights of children all over the world.

Just as we thought this form of abuse were gone from our homes, a new set of abuse – online abuse crept into the fabric of our society through the introduction of various information and communication mediums which we are here today to discuss and address.

Over the past decade, new information and communication technologies (ICTs) have profoundly changed the ways in which today’s young people interact with and participate in the world around them. The proliferation of Internet access points, mobile technology and growing array of Internet-enabled devices combined with the immense resources to be found in cyberspace provide children and young people with unprecedented opportunities to learn, share and communicate.

The benefits of ICTs are many yet despite these profound benefits, children and young people nonetheless can face a number of risks through using ICTs.

The risks that face our children and young people online are complex. They are exposed to violent and appalling images which risks distorting their attitude towards relationship and sex. We are living at a time when vulgar and coarse content is readily available to very young children…even if they do not go searching for it, their friends may show it to them or they may stumble upon it while using the Internet.

Children are the most vulnerable group, thus it is our responsibility as a government, policy makers, industry players, and parents to ensure our children are safe and on guard when online.

The Office of Censorship since 2014 has been working on a concept to filter anything and everything that comes through the internet. This concept on Internet Filtering is one measure which my Office believes will minimise issues like pornography, cyber bullying, money laundering, cybercrime as well as ensure protection of children online.

Drastic actions taken by the government such as the Internet Filtering System is to ensure a clean feed of information is accessed by internet users especially children who reach out to new sources of knowledge on the internet.

We are aware that finding an appropriate balance between ensuring that all children have access to ICTs and at the same time ensuring that they are protected from violence, abuse and exploitation while using ICTs, can be challenging. It is important that we not only tackle problems in relation to children’s use of ICTs but should proactively promote digital citizenship among children who are our nation’s most valuable assets.

Co-operation and partnership between the government, private sector, policymakers, educators, civil society and parents are the keys to establishing the foundations for a safer and more secure use of the Internet and ICTs for today’s children and for future generations.

So it is my strongest conviction that sex, dangers of pornography and relationship education MUST BE COMPULSORY in secondary schools.

I hope that the round table discussions will identify some solutions to address and minimise online sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children.

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