Children should feel safe on the internet. Their experiences online should be fun and informative, this is why at Google, protecting children online is something we care about deeply and are committed to.
For children, the Internet can aid with their school work, help them connect with friends, and offer a creative outlet. At the same time, children have been exposed to some of the worst forms of exploitation, violence and abuse online.
It is therefore important that we all work closely together in order to mitigate the unintended negative aspects of this medium on children, while at the same time maximizing the benefits they can accrue from it.
Web Rangers posing questions to two Kenyan Members of Parliament
In 2016 on Safer Internet Day, we announced that we were launching our digital literacy programme, Web Rangers, in 3 African countries (Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa). Today, we are happy to report that the programme has grown exponentially in these countries. Working together with our implementing partners and government departments in these countries, the programme has positively impacted many children:
- In South Africa, together with our local partner Media Monitoring Africa, we’ve implemented the programme in 3 provinces, reaching 2,000 learners, 50 volunteers and over 50 schools;
- In Nigeria, working together with the Public & Private Development Centre, over 2,000 learners from 20 schools have been directly trained in 3 states, but the campaign has reached over 15,000 learners in 36 states through a partnership with the National Film and Video Censors Board; and,
- In Kenya, following a 2015 challenge from President Uhuru Kenyatta, who called for the programme to harness the agency of young people to use technology to build bridges of peace and understanding in their online and offline communities, the programme (through our implementing partners Code-IP Trust, Twaweza Communications, the Ministry of Education and the National Cohesion & Integration Commission) launched a project called Amani Hangout Bridges, which focuses on bringing together a diversity of youth in Kenya to use tech to build bridges of peace, promote diversity and understanding. A total of 176 schools have directly participated in the Web Rangers programme (training 3,500 learners and 1,500 teachers), while 350 learners in 13 high schools have participated in the Amani Hangout Bridges programme.
Two weeks ago, we brought together 26 Web Rangers from the participating countries for the first ever Web Rangers Africa Summit. The chosen Web Rangers were able to meet with each, other child safety nonprofits and policymakers and share ideas on how they can make the Internet a safer place for young Internet users in their respective countries.
Web Rangers posing for the cameras during a visit to the Kenyan parliament
Some of the highlights of the Summit included a bootcamp on how to make campaign videos for online audiences on topics such as diversity and inclusion, trust, tolerance and responsibility. Web Rangers also learnt how to real life child safety issues - focusing on cyberbullying, sexting, sharing personal information online and catfishing - and came up with policy scenarios on how to deal with each of these in the real world.
Web Rangers, policymakers and caregivers also joined their heads to developed a draft Children's Charter Rights and Responsibilities Online, which was presented to Honourable Raphael Tuju, Minister in the President's Office (Republic of Kenya). Hon. Tuju, who also handed out certificates of participation to the Web Rangers, acknowledged the value of digital literacy programmes such as these in complementing the work that is being done by parents, teachers, guardians and governments in ensuring that children grow up to become responsible digital citizens.
Graduation ceremony certificates were presented by Minister Raphael Tuju (centre) (Minister in the President's Office, Republic of Kenya)
Originally launched in Israel, followed by the Philippines, India, Turkey, New Zealand, Japan, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Web Rangers is a Google-led digital literacy programme designed to educate young people about online safety and empower them to create innovative campaigns that promote safe Internet usage and champion their rights in the digital world.
Posted by Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, Public Policy and Government Relations Manager, South Africa.