Child Helpline International attends the “Promoting Digital Child Dignity” meeting

On 14-15 November 2019, Child Helpline International was invited to attend the “Promoting Digital Child Dignity” meeting held in Vatican City. Convened by The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Child Dignity Alliance, the meeting focused on the protection of children in the digital world as well as the responsibility of the religious communities in working towards this.

Patrick Krens, Executive Director of Child Helpline International, attended this two-day meeting, alongside experts, academics, policy makers, and technology industry leaders. Also in attendance was Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, who has also previously served on the Board of Child Helpline International. The debate was an important opportunity to reflect on relevant issues regarding the dignity of children and adolescents in the digital world, by sharing and discussing on previous challenges and future goals.

Beginning with an audience with Pope Francis, the meeting then moved on to the risks associated with children’s increased online presence. It was highlighted that children as young as infants and toddlers are now the targets of abuse for sophisticated online communities and children and young people in general, are now experiencing greater incidences of cyberbullying, harassment and sextortion.

Actions were then set by NGOs, Companies, Policy Makers and Faith leaders relating to the following six goals:

 

Goal 1: To raise awareness of digital risks and make prevention the top priority.

This includes the creation of a global prevention and awareness campaign surrounding education on the nature and severity of child sexual abuse and exploitation online, its economic and financial impacts and early intervention with potential offenders.

 

Goal 2: To undertake new social research to provide better understanding of the scope and severity of child sexual abuse and exploitation online.

The action surrounding this, is to convene a Research Task Force that will include some of the world’s leading scholars and researchers in the field of child sexual abuse and exploitation to undertake foundational research on child sexual abuse and exploitation.

 

Goal 3: To foster the collaboration with technology companies.

The proposal is to establish an Internet Industry Roundtable to discuss the role of technology companies, and the potential development of new tools and technologies to attack these problems.

 

Goal 4: To mobilize the world’s great religions to launch a global movement to protect children online.

The proposal is to establish an Interfaith Roundtable to inform and engage members of every faith and launch a grassroots awareness campaign to enhance online child protection.

 

Goal 5: To promote exchange of experiences in the provision of child rescue and treatment services.

This involves convening a Victim Services Roundtable that will include experts on the identification and treatment of victims to promote implementation of a victim-centric approach.

 

Goal 6: To promote appropriate legislation and executive measures

This involves encouraging the Authorities to act effectively, using appropriate legislation and encourage laws appropriate to new digital, technological and social developments in order to counter criminal activities that harm children’s lives and dignity.

 

We would like to extend our gratitude to The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Child Dignity Alliance for hosting such an important and inspiring meeting and we look forward to achieving these goals together.