IGF 2022 Open Forum #57 Digital skills for protection and participation online

Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (12:00 UTC) - Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (13:00 UTC)

Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min


Being online, wellbeing online, rights online: Co-creating and deploying tools and resources on children's and human rights in the digital environment to ensure online safety for children and youth with a special focus on the girl child and young women. In an increasingly connected world, the need for a safe and enabling digital environment for children and youth has never been greater. According to ITU data, in 2021 young people (15-24 years of age) world-wide were 1.24 times more likely to connect to the Internet than the rest of the population. Worldwide, one in three internet users are children, and as the General Comment No. 25 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recognized, the digital environment acts as nexus to providing diverse opportunities and choices. This adoption comes at an unprecedented and pivotal time due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has relocated worldwide educational, leisure, social, political, and professional activities to the online environment. Massive change at this scale has caused new challenges to preserve the full integrity of children’s and human rights online. Access and use of the Internet has opened many doors for children and young people to realize the full range of their rights, such as the right to participate, express themselves, access information, communicate, and learn, and to live free from violence. Creation of online protection resources led by young people, particularly in grassroots’ spaces, have also emerged, driven by peer-to-peer support to help promote online safety and safety through online participation. Basic functional and digital literacy skills are, however, a precondition, without which children and youth, and all citizens are unable to access, read, write, input and upload information, participate in polls or express themselves in a manner permitting them to digitally engage in their community. Meaningful connectivity can help build connections between regions of the world and a wide range of people; however, there are still many who do not have the ability to access online spaces or have the knowledge to safely navigate them, with children, and specifically young girls, and young women, being some of the most vulnerable amongst them. It is essential for children, youth, and adults to develop a scope of how children’s rights and human rights apply to online spaces, be empowered to actively co-create spaces and services to support each other, participate through online means in matters that concern their lives and wellbeing, and learn measures that can be taken to improve the online experiences of vulnerable groups. Capacity building efforts for children, youth, girls, and women in particular, but also educators, parents, carers, policymakers, and the ICT industry are fundamental in increasing awareness, skills, literacy, and resilience of internet-users in co-creating safer and more accessible environments for children and youth, including women and girls. The ITU Child Online Protection Initiative and the EQUALS global partnership in collaboration with key stakeholders in the field, have undertaken the development of digital literacy education activities for a range of demographics and stakeholders to encourage capacity building efforts in a variety of online contexts. However, one of the critical challenges to capacity building endeavors is that there are still gaps in the way that online spaces can be accessed and by whom, such as the global gender digital divide and income inequality divide. Acknowledging and addressing areas for improvement in internet accessibility is the first step to understanding how connectivity can be improved in a meaningful and sustainable manner. The development of capacity building projects targeted at under-represented groups can help ensure that every child and every young person has the opportunity to benefit safely and fully from meaningful connectivity.


Hosting organizations: ITU

Partner organizations:

UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, The Walt Disney Company (represented through Watoto Kenya Onlus)


UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, The Walt Disney Company (represented through Watoto Kenya Onlus), GSMA, Government of Burundi, Youth Representatives

Onsite Moderator


Online Moderator



UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children


4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: 4.7: Digital skills and online safety education is built on a child and human rights-based approach, emphasising the compatibility of protection from violence and harm online and the empowerment, and participation of children and youth through online means. Children and youth will be empowered to realize the full range of their rights online and offline with the help of online means. The capacity-building activities also seek to proffer participants with the relevant knowledge, skills and empowerment to participate in the creation of alternative online spaces wherein online risks, including violence are minimized and harm eventually avoided. They invite stakeholders to promote content, including peer-to-peer programmes, that are designed and shown to help children and youth develop digital skills and empower them to build respectful communities that support online safety. Digital education should be holistic and should cover data and media literacy, alongside safeguarding issues. Education should also be extended to parents/carers, educators, policymakers and the ICT industry to support their role in promoting child online safety. 5.b: A specific focus on rights online through tailored capacity-building activities address the gap of women and girls being disproportionately affected by violence online but becoming less often the main audience for digital skills education programmes and tools centred embedded withing human rights learning approaches. ITU’s cooperative projects with the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) have used a multidisciplinary approach in mainstreaming gender in educational frameworks to expand the horizons of women as they access and use ICTs to participate fully in their economies and value chains. ITU’s educational programmes within the EQUALS Global Partnership have been directed at closing the gender digital divide by 2030 by leveraging and coordinating global initiatives such as International Girls in ICT Day, the initiative to increase the talent pipeline of girls and young women in STEM/STEAM, and HER DIGITAL SKILLS initiative including the Tech4Girls Workshops and Tech4Girls E-mentoring programme. Two hundred fifty million fewer women are online than men. To address this connectivity chasm and to work towards the sustainable development goal of improving women’s access to enabling technology, creating a safe online platform and promotion of rights online is imperative. 16.2: Online violence against children is on the rise. The Covid-19 pandemic has only emphasised the urgent need to act now. While many children connected for the first time, at much younger ages and often without the necessary awareness and skills to access safely the full range of their opportunities online, significant discrepancies have become flagrant not only with children but with all relevant stakeholders when it comes to awareness, knowledge, and skills to take an active role in online safety for children. Within ITUs Global programme on child online protection, special attention is provided to digital literacy education built on a child rights-based approach. The capacity building for all relevant stakeholders including children, youth, women and girls, educators, carers, policymakers and ICT industry stakeholders, calls upon all actors to take up their responsibilities and possibilities to contribute to the creation of a safer and empowering online environment for all users. Only by building the necessary capacity with all relevant stakeholders, the global challenge of online safety for children can be addressed.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Children are actors of change. But in order to become active digital citizens, that are able to safely navigate the online environment, access support online and provide support to their peers, they need to be equipped and empowered with the necessary digital skills and digital literacy education.

Online digital skills and safety education through engaging trainings are one of the ways to empower women and girls everywhere and allow them to access opportunities and rights online. International partnership is essential to deliver comprehensive and relevant education. ThE drafting national strategies should complement and be focused on privacy, security, and ensuring the inclusion of girls and women, and learning digital technologies.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

We need to involve children in drafting policies and have an understanding of what children are doing and what they need in order to feel safe online. Young people should be at the center of collaboration and this will help to improve cooperation and partnership on digital skills and online safety for all.