On the occasion of the Safer Internet Day this February, World Vision tells the story of the Keeping Children Safe Online project since its launch in 2009.
Children in Lebanon were not aware of the Internet challenges and how to protect themselves online until the day when the Keeping Children Safe Online (KCSO) project kicked off in 2009. In the first stage of the project, children and parents attended awareness sessions on challenges online (like cyber bullying, fraud and child pornography and receiving illegal or inadequate content) and the means of protection. Thus, they sought in turn to make Internet use safer and increase the awareness of their peers by giving them the training and spread the knowledge on online safety.
“Nowadays the usage of Internet has become necessary in children’s lives. It is source of information that we must not underestimate. Yet, parents and children must learn how to deal with it to minimize its challenges,” says Zeina Khoury, KCSO project manager.
One year after the launch of the project, government institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), having realized how important online safety is, took part in the project.
In September 2012, the launch of the e-helpline page, jointly developed by World Vision and its local partners, allowed all children of Lebanon to report on online dangers and feel safer on the Internet.
"Children and youth who use the Internet everyday will find answers to questions related to their safety and will receive help and support whenever needed," says Khoury, speaking of the launch of the e-helpline page, designed to help kids understand the dangers and stay safe online.
The e-helpline consists of a reporting mechanism, online technical support, and advice on how to deal with any issue they can face online (such as cyber bullying, receiving illegal or inadequate content), among other things, like referrals and counselling regarding online safety. The helpline is part of World Vision Lebanon's on-going work to keep kids safe and was established under the umbrella of the Cyber Crime Unit at the Ministry of Interior in Lebanon, in partnership with "Himaya" (a local NGO working on child protection issues, gathering several specialists in a multidisciplinary approach and intervention).
Online Safety training curriculum
In September 2012, 30 school teachers representing the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD), affiliated with the Ministry of Education, were trained on the online safety curriculum prepared by World Vision and the CERD. Those teachers are in turn now training 1,000 of their peers. The latter will be transmitting the knowledge to students in school classes and including it in their educational materials.
"Teachers in the South and in Beirut are very excited about the training sessions they are receiving on the online safety curriculum. It is very beneficial for them,” says Jean Deaibes, one of the teacher trainers. Jean is giving sessions for his peers and for students in the South of Lebanon as well. “Teachers’ role is to raise the students’ awareness. I received lots of phone calls from parents after the first session I gave to students. Parents thanked me and requested additional sessions. As for students, they were eager to share lots of their experiences around this topic during the class,” he adds.
The online safety training curriculum materials were collected in a book which is printed and distributed to teachers receiving the training, in order for them to use it as a reference in their classes.
Play about online safety
On the occasion of the Safer Internet Day on February 5th, 2013, World Vision, in cooperation with the “Just for Kids” group, are performing a play at various Area Development Programmes aiming at raising the awareness on online safety. The play encompasses messages around the challenges children face online and displays challenges, unveiling the best way to avoid them. It targets school students aged between 7 and 13 years old.
“I liked the play because it is about Internet and communication and it is beneficial. I have learned not to talk with strangers online and not to access pages I know nothing about,” says Anthony, 13, after watching the play in Ferzol Public School in Bekaa area (east side of Lebanon). “From now on, I will use the Internet with great conscience,” he added.
As for Nadeen, 10-year-old girl, “the play gave me lots of new information. It is strengthening; it made us stronger online now that we know how to deal with it. I have mainly learnt not to give information about myself for people I have met on the Internet,” she says.
Safer Internet Day 2013
Also, among the celebrations taking place in Lebanon on the occasion of the Safer Internet Day 2013, is the launching of the CERD and World Vision ‘Online Safety Campaign’ in the Ministry of Education premises on February 5th. And on February 9th , World Vision along with NGO and ministries partners, under the auspices of the higher council for childhood at the Ministry of Social Affairs, are celebrating the day through the declaration of the KCSO competition winners. The competition entitled, “Rights and responsibilities on the Internet - I communicate with respect” targets students all over Lebanon. Participants had to produce materials (posters, booklets, drawings, etc.) raising awareness on online safety.
In Lebanon, 44% of Internet users have an Internet connection at home. While 40% of children surveyed in focus groups are becoming addicted to the Internet by spending five hours online per day, and 31% of Facebook users are younger than 30 years old.