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Working Group on Digital Safety and Cyberwellness at EDUsummIT 2015

(by Dr. Yuhyun Park)

With tremendous advances in ICT digital technologies, every dimension of human life has been radically transformed. These changes are particularly impactful for our children who are born in this hyper-connected digital world. Their identities are no longer bounded by local, national, or global citizenry; they are also digital citizens. Undoubtedly, the technologies have brought significant benefits to children.

However, unintended negative side effects have also manifested from the rise in digital technologies. These consequences threaten children’s safety and human rights.

It is critical for national policy-makers and government leaders to realize the importance of digital citizenship for children so that they can be properly equipped with the core values, competencies and social and emotional intelligences to not only protect them from the growing number of digital risks, but also help them to creatively and responsibly use digital media and technologies as actively participating digital citizens.

Through the EDUsummIT the global community of researchers and educators focused on the effective use of ICT in education. Since its inception in 2009, this event has established a network of experts who meet biannually to assess the status of the education system regarding ICTs. Similarly, the 2015 meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand, a product of collaboration between Curtin University and UNESCO Bangkok. Through the division of participants into nine Thematic Working Groups (TWGs), they were expected to collaborate on developing discussion papers and policy briefs on their respective focus areas. The TWGs explored themes such as smart partnerships, mobile learning, educational equity, assessment, creativity, indicators, digital citizenship and curriculum. With almost a hundred participants, the event itself provided opportunities to reflect voices from the Asia-Pacific region, as the compiled policy briefs are intended to be considered by the Ministers in the region. Participants had plenty of opportunities to work in groups, as well as provide cross-group feedback and suggestions.

In regard to digital citizenship and cyberwellness, the TWG 8 aimed to address this issue systematically and holistically from building a secure infrastructure to shaping a sustainable digital culture for children at the national and regional levels. These discussion were built on from March 2014, the inaugural expert meeting was held at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in order to develop the first draft of a UNESCO policy guideline, and the Regional Consultation on Policies and Initiatives to Promote Children’s Safe, Effective, and Responsible Use of ICT held in Bangkok, Thailand in September 2015, to further enrich the draft policy guideline with additional evidences from the region.

At the EDUsummIT 2015 immediately following the Regional Consultation, members of the Technical Working Group 8 continued the discussion by exploring various challenges concerning children’s vulnerabilities to cyber risks, level of awareness among education stakeholders on various issues, network security, data privacy, evidence-based and system approaches to programmes, and relevant competencies, among others. Some of the group’s initial discussions focused on developing safe systems and infrastructure, question of data privacy and related policies, raising awareness of the impacts of technologies, ethical online behavior, evidence-based research, and collaboration, to name a few.

Finalized recommendations will be further elaborated and refined, with the support of data-driven evidence and analysis, towards publishing a UNESCO policy brief targeting the region’s education sector.

The members agreed to independently set up a Digital Citizenship Network in order to build a comprehensive, high-level framework and action plan to promote digital citizenship and cyber wellness through active production and implementation of publications and advocacy activities. Best practices from around the world and practical toolkits will also be introduced for interested stakeholders to easily adopt, localize and implement in their respective countries.

(from left to right): Devashish Dutta (UNICEF-EAPRO), Tereza Trencheva (University Youth Knowledge Academy), Eva Dobozy (Curtin University), Michael Searson (Kean University), Yuhyun Park (iZ HERO Lab/NTU), Mel Tan (UNESCO Bangkok), Paul Resta (University of Texas Austin), Marsali Hancock (iKeepSafe)

TWG 8. From left to right: Devashish Dutta (UNICEF-EAPRO), Tereza Trencheva (University Youth Knowledge Academy), Eva Dobozy (Curtin University),  Michael Searson (Kean University), Yuhyun Park (iZ HERO Lab/NTU),  Mel Tan  (UNESCO Bangkok), Paul Resta (University of Texas Austin), Marsali Hancock (iKeepSafe)