Safer Internet for a safer future for children

by World Vision - MEERO | World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe/ CA office
Wednesday, 9 February 2011 11:12 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Armenian schoolchildren participated in Safer Internet Day this year through a contest to reveal the positive and negative sides of the Internet and promote safer usage. Around 100 children from the capital Yerevan and regions of Armenia shared their vision on the advantages and hazards of the Internet by developing video clips in the frame of World Vision's Keeping Children Safe Online project. 'The contest triggered my thoughts over the traps of the Web. I started to look for ways to protect myself from the threats and get the most and the best from the Internet. I am now more conscious while sharing my personal information on-line and avoid entering suspicious sites,' said 13-year-old Alvard, a participant of the competition. In Armenia, Internet usage has literally exploded in the course of one year with 47.1% of Armenia's population now online according to the latest data published by the Internet World Stats. Back in 2009 Internet penetration in Armenia was only 6.4%. Mobile Internet users have most likely contributed to this immense growth. Different mobile operators and Internet providers have actively penetrated the Armenian market providing a better quality service, wider coverage and cheaper prices. The fast developments result in growing cases of online abuse and bullying that require an urgent response. 'A hotline to report cases of online abuse and bullying over the phone was created together with Fund for Armenian Relief. Today we work to enhance the reporting mechanisms by creating an on-line system and linking it to the schools and Police,' said Hasmik Ghukasyan, World Vision Armenia's Education Expert. Sixty movie clips were submitted in the competition and 19 of them were awarded. However, all the participants received certificates and useful resources on safer Internet usage. World Vision's Keeping Children Safe Online project piloted in Armenia in 2009 widely cooperates with Microsoft, the Armenian Government and various NGOs active in the field and advocates for on-line safety. An interactive CD that teaches children about the golden rules of online safety has already been translated into Armenian and will be distributed among schoolchildren in all of World Vision's Area Development Programmes. Awareness raising training with a focus on peer education and other activities are to be organised for all children, teachers and parents. After sharing the results of the competition a press conference was organised with the participation of journalists to stress the importance of a Safer Internet Day and draw the attention of a wider audience to the risks of the Internet. The press conference was followed by a round-table discussion among stakeholders to create effective mechanisms to respond to the cases of on-line abuse and take preventive actions. 'We shouldn't neglect the problem but look for better solutions and control mechanisms before the Internet can seriously affect our children,' said Grigor Barseghyan, Executive Director of Microsoft office in Armenia. Safer Internet Day is organised by INSAFE ( in February to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people across the world. This year, World Vision offices in Armenia and Georgia participated in the campaign through the regional Keeping Children Safe Online project. -Ends-