From attending classes to staying connected with classmates and family, young people are now spending a lot more time online. According to the recent poll on U-Report Solomon Islands, 88 percent of young respondents answered they have access to the Internet.
Being connected helps young people access information easily so they can educate themselves, but it also comes with significant risks like cyberbullying and exploitation.
Working in partnership with young people to co-create solutions for protecting themselves online will help them have safe and positive online experiences and know where and how to seek help when needed.
In the Solomon Islands, UNICEF and Oxfam are supporting young people to understand how they can stay safe online through U-Report, a digital platform to amplify the voice of young people by using mobile technologies, such as SMS and Facebook. About 30 U-Ambassadors, youth who have been volunteering to drive the U-Report platform, have been trained on online safety.
“This training has helped me understand what cyberbullying is, how it affects children and young people and how we can help create change by sharing what we have learnt with our families and our community,” says Pattson, a youth participant.
“At a time when more and more young people have access to phones and the Internet, it is important to ensure that they are aware of the risks online and how they can stay safe.”
Pattson will be joining other youth to raise awareness about online safety and says, “My hope is to share this message everywhere, even at the province and the village level so that it reaches all age groups.”
Another youth participant, Victoria says “I hope to teach some of the other youth about what I have learnt, and for parents to be aware of what their child is doing online and how they can promote healthy online habits.”
“The majority of parents don’t know how to use the Internet so with limited knowledge, they also don’t understand the risks,” adds Maverick, another youth participant.
“I will share what I have learnt with other youth and I hope to empower them as well. I will use every opportunity to spread more awareness about online safety in my friends and family circle.”
Advice to other young people
Maverick’s advice to other young people is to educate themselves. “Self-learning is important and if you search ‘how to stay safe online’, there is a lot of useful information and even cartoons for children to understand.”
“We must support others, especially those who are experiencing cyberbullying,” says Maverick.
Pattson shared similar sentiments adding, “It is vitally important for us young people to know and understand what the risks are and how to stay safe online.”
About the online safety training
UNICEF aims to ensure children and young people can enjoy the benefits and opportunities of the Internet, including online learning, socialising and play, while mitigating the risks and potential for harm. UNICEF works with children and young people to develop digital competency and online safety skills to protect themselves, and supports families, communities, and institutions to be better equipped to prevent and respond to child online protection concerns.
Following the training, U-Ambassadors will continue to be engaged to conduct polls in the Solomon Islands to gather insights on young people’s experiences online and other topics. Additionally, the U-Report platform will be used to disseminate messages on online safety that focus on identifying, preventing, and responding to different forms of online behavior experienced by young people.