Today, technology can be seen as a double-edged sword. It can be a blessing and a curse. In order to promote cooperation in combating children’s exploitation through online trafficking and to support and protect the victims of online abuse, World Vision Jerusalem West Bank and Gaza (JWG) launched the Keeping Children Safe Online (KCSO) project in 2009. Over the past five years, the initiative that has had a great impact in the targeted communities.
The KCSO projecte created a partnership between children, parents, school counsellors and the police’s Cybercrime Unit which was mobilized to take action to address the problem of child trafficking and abuse online. The KSCO project works by equipping children and young people with the digital literacy skills they need to benefit from and not be threatened by digital resources. The curriculum encourages children to self-regulate the content of their online profiles and gives them the knowledge and tools they need to deal with problems online as well as the conﬁdence and skills to seek help from others, when needed.
As digital citizens of the future, the children who have participated in the KCSO activities wanted their voices to be heard through their participation in the annual Safer Internet Day, February 12, 2014. Four teens were planning on traveling to an international conference being held this year in Albania. They were hoping to participate in debates on internet governance and legislation and participate actively in the development of effective child protection strategies for the online world with their peers worldwide. Unfortunately, due to travel restrictions for Palestinians, they were not able to travel.
World Vision JWG also organised many activities to celebrate Safer Internet Day, 2014 throughout the month of February in World Vision’s programme areas throughout Palestine, including competitions and giveaways. Additionally, World Vision will conduct trainings for police units on cybercrimes and online safety throughout Palestine to help protect people’s data, particularly that of children.
World Vision also renewed its commitment to train and teach parents as a first line of protection for their children. Experience has shown that children whose parents preserve an open and honest dialogue with their children about their online lives help create positive online experiences for their children, because their children also know where they can go for support in the event that they become a victim of cybercrimes or cyber bullying.
Finally, a guidebook that contains activities and information about online safety was prepared to be added to the Palestinian curriculum, which will be distributed to educational counsellors in schools across the Ministry of Education. This guide creates the opportunity for children to learn and teachers to teach about the protection of children’s rights within their curriculum.
Through the KCSO project, youth, like Tulin, 16, are more aware of the risks online and while navigating virtually through open and unsecured websites. “Through this project, I became more cautious of the risks I might face through the internet, especially chat rooms, and how people can really deceive children and harm them,” she said. Tulin has been active in KCSO since the project’s start in 2012.
“We have been trained to use the internet in a healthy manner and implement the healthy instructions for ourselves. On a personal level, I don’t disclose details about myself on Facebook; I try my best to keep the information limited and not general,” she continued.
Karam,17, joined KCSO a year ago. He was disappointed that he was not allowed to travel and participate in the conference in Albania. “I wanted to participate to be aware of the policies implemented in other countries in order to adopt them and start pushing to apply them in our country,” he said, adding how the KCSO training raised his awareness of online threats and gave him the tools to help him keep his two younger sisters and a number of his friends safe, especially when opening their accounts on public computers.
Rania, 15, joined the project two years ago. She explained how bad the consequences for those who do not know how to stay safe online can be. “In my opinion, Facebook is a medium that can be utilized in two negative ways; people exploit others by hacking their accounts or stealing their photos and impersonating their identities,” she said.
Over the past year, the Palestinian Cybercrime Unit has played a significant role in addressing users’ complaints and providing a prompt intervention to support incidents in regard the exploitation and abuse of children.
Captain Ruham, the Head of the Cybercrime Unit in the Palestinian Police, received a Cybercrime and Forensic Computing training, held in Nicosia, Cyprus, from the Cypriot police. There, he was introduced to different methods for following up with internet violations and transferring them into legal teams. “It was a valuable training that reflected remarkably on our work, especially when catching evidences and delivering them to the public prosecution,” he said.