Safe Internet, an excuse to limit or protect children?

More than 70% of those who took part in this poll gave a negative answer. But in response to the negative response of the general respondents, the ministry announced that the white list for the internet of children and teenagers will be completed soon. A list of sites that government organizations and not families consider suitable for Iranian children and teenagers. Of course, the news shows that the freedom to use the Internet for adults is becoming more limited day by day.

In the case of children, the important issue is to protect them against injuries everywhere. UNICEF reported in 2017 that one out of three Internet users are children and said that the main challenge is how to increase the benefits of the Internet for children while reducing the harm of the Internet. But the researches in the field of cyberspace policies in Iran show that in these policies, controlling and limiting users under the pretext of protecting against Internet harm is more important than creating suitable facilities for using cyberspace capabilities.

Where are the children in the decisions?

A research conducted by Esmail Yazdanpour, a researcher in the field of social and cultural issues of the Internet last year, called “Children and the Internet: Frameworks for the Development of Policy Packages”, says that most of the national policies in the field of cyberspace have been formulated without considering the previous data and experiences of children, while achieving The list of children’s needs and rights should be accompanied by the study of the objective and subjective experience of children. An important question is what children around the world want from the Internet, not what adults think they should want. Children themselves and their growth and life contexts are important in the answer: “Many policies and procedures related to the Internet only consider general and adult users and do not pay serious attention to the user’s age and gender or the real life conditions of child users. For the development of policies and programs at the national and social level, the subjective and objective experience of children must be taken into account, and this is possible through research and direct consultation with the children themselves. According to the report of the World Commission on Internet Governance: “The Internet is much bigger than a system of generating wealth, the Internet is also an important platform for innovation, freedom of expression, culture and access to ideas.”

Internet has different opportunities and threats for children. In the same report, it is said that opportunities such as learning and literature and digital resources, civic participation, creativity and self-expression, identification and social communication, as well as commercial, violent, sexual and value threats may be in front of children by connecting them to the Internet. Today’s children’s lives are connected to cyber spaces and it is important to find a balance between opportunities and threats, a balance between freedom of expression and the right to privacy. But there is a big gap between preventive policies and policies to promote digital citizenship rights: “The upbringing of young Internet users, in addition to negative and security aspects, requires policies that strengthen the ability, flexibility and self-esteem of children to the extent that they can take advantage of all opportunities. take and minimize the threats.” While, according to this research, almost all the policy packages developed by Iranian institutions have a prescriptive, commanding view based on predefined frameworks, and most importantly, they have been developed from the perspective of adults: “Even the main institutions related to children and adolescents such as “The school and even the family are not very present in this field.”

Internet is not taken seriously in schools in Iran, and education is one of the passive sectors of the government in the field of Internet. Last year, education announced that more than 30% of students do not have access to smart communication devices or the Internet, and during the Corona era, 3 million children stopped studying because they did not have access to the Shaad system. The educational and controlling view of the authorities sees a positive point even in these statistics, and Zohra Elahian, a member of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that these children are actually safe from virtual harm. The view that governs these policies not only does not see children and their experiences, needs and desires, but also does not involve families in these decisions.

Policies should be universal

Considerable international actions have been taken in the field of protecting children in cyberspace, and in the children’s rights documents, we can reach cases related to cyberspace, in order to achieve a balance between protecting children from the harm of cyberspace and making it possible for them to grow with the help of capabilities. This space helps. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a global document to protect children’s rights, which Iran has joined. In his research, Yazdanpour considers the four principles of this agreement to be applicable to digital environments as well: the principle of non-discrimination, the principle that says that the main interests of children should be taken into account in all matters affecting them, the right to life, survival and growth, and the right to express opinions and To be heard in all matters related to them.

Another global activity that this study also mentions is the “We Protect” global coalition, which has more than 90 countries as members, but Iran has not yet joined it. The proposed model of this coalition includes various programs such as awareness raising, education, participation of children, protection and support of victims, law enforcement mechanisms and participation of institutions. The important point is that: “In order to use the advantages and minimize the abuse of children and the mental colonization of children, we must reach the coordination frameworks of national policies and targeted actions with regard to national and international conditions.” The Internet is a global phenomenon, its opportunities to advance education and personal development, its harms and threats, and the protection that must be given to children should also be seen globally. It has global activists.” Policy packages in the field of child protection in cyberspace emphasize localization so much that they are linked to other restrictive documents in the field of cyberspace. In fact, the big concern of many is whether the protection of children will be an excuse for more control over the public Internet?

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