UNICEF and Facebook collaborate to build safer and healthier online experiences for adolescents and children 

 New Delhi: UNICEF India and Facebook today launched a one-year joint initiative on ending violence against children with a special focus on online safety.

The partnership seeks to create a safe environment for children online and offline. It aims to improve children’s resilience and capacity to access the digital world safely, increase awareness on violence against children and its impact on children, families, and communities, as well as increase skills of communities and frontline workers to better prevent and respond to violence. This partnership will include a nation-wide social media campaign, and capacity building for 100,000school children on online safety, digital literacy, and psychosocial support.

The virtual event saw the presence of Ms. Aastha Saxena Khatwani, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India together with Facebook Head of Programs and Outreach, Ms. Madhu Sirohi and UNICEF India Deputy Representative Programmes, Mr. Yasumasa Kimura. Well-known actor and UNICEF India’s celebrity advocate on ending violence against children, Mr. Ayushmann Khurrana gave his keynote message. During the launch there was a panel with representatives from UNICEF, Facebook, Leher and a child leader, to discuss challenges and solutions to address safety of children in online and offline spaces.

Ms. Aastha Saxena Khatwani, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India said,“In the last year and half, the internet has enabled children to continue with their education, removing the barriers of time and geography.  As we encourage children to explore the great knowledge resource available online, we should be cognizant of the threats that come along with the all-pervasive nature of these online mediums. I am glad that UNICEF and Facebook are taking this important step forward to educate and sensitize our younger generation against online abuse.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased chances for children to face violence – whether online or offline. Acknowledging the significant efforts being made to end violence against children, its important that different stakeholders come together, to increase awareness, change behaviors and perceptions around how, when and where violence against children occurs. This is critical to promote better understanding the violence and most effective ways to ensure child safety both online and offline,” said UNICEF India Deputy Representative Programmes, Mr. Yasumasa Kimura. “The partnership with Facebook at this critical time will help shape a safer online and offline world for children to grow, learn and thrive,” he said.

Facebook Head of Programs and Outreach, Ms. Madhu Sirohi said, “The pandemic has spurred the adoption of digital platforms. Being online gives young people so many choices. It gives them skills such as self-control and resilience that can help them make decisions that will lead to positive outcomes both online and offline. Protecting children online is important to us and we take this responsibility seriously. Over the years we have worked with parents, governments and safety experts to offer a safe online experience for the youngest members of our community. Today, we are delighted to partner with UNICEF to make the internet safe for children and young audiences. Through this partnership we want to help them participate in public life by using the power of digital platforms, and to advocate for issues they care about.”

Supporting the initiative, actor and UNICEF India’s celebrity advocate on ending violence against children, Mr. Ayushmann Khurrana said, “The internet is a double-edged sword.  We have seen its myriad benefits during this pandemic. At the same time, it has its own risks.  We need to equip our children and adolescents with knowledge and digital tools so they can safely navigate and participate actively in the ever-evolving digital society. As UNICEF India’s celebrity supporter, I am honored to extend my support and voice to this important initiative. I welcome this initiative that will create awareness and help children, parents, teachers and other actors understand better the safety and wellbeing of our children in the digital era and take appropriate preventive and responsive measures.”

Speaking at the panel discussion, 16-year-old Jaspreet Singh said, “If the question arises whose responsibility is it to make sure that we are safe, the answer is very simple. It is Us, the users, because if not us, then who? This initiative from UNICEF and Facebook will empower us to experience the power of internet in a safer and responsible way.”