Internet Safety for Young People

The Middle East is becoming a major regional force in information technology. The expansion of the use of the Internet in Egypt, the proliferation of affordable computers and Internet connections, advanced access technology and unregulated cyber-cafes where young people meet, share network information and surf without any parental guidance or technical blocs, has been both a blessing and a curse. Unattended surfing of the Internet or use of mobile phones may expose young users to risks related to content, contacts or commercialism.

Our youth are often becoming the involuntary recipients of materials that are repulsive or potentially damaging. The proliferation of Internet sites depicting violence, brutality and crime desensitizes youth to their horrors. This necessitates immediate action to raise awareness among youth about the potential dangers associated with the use of the Internet.

Since various forms of filtering, blocking and monitoring software are sometimes ineffective and as their development is outpaced by those who would post such material on the web, circumventing such security measures and reaching our children anyway, it is necessary to work with youth and parents and perhaps also public providers of Internet services whether at the network level or at the supplier end. As part of their interests in the affairs of women and children, relevant NGOs are important not only as a source of funding but also as a source of information sharing as well as a source of expertise in conducting survey research and analyzing results.

This track aims at establishing a Youth Internet Safety Focus Group to spread awareness about Internet safety issues in order to empower children and youth with the ability to identify harmful content and use computers, the Internet, IT tools, and mobile phone services safely and responsibly. The Youth Internet Safety Focus Group will meet regularly over an initial 18-month period beginning February 2008. The group has four major goals:

  1. Research the current e-safety needs of young people in Egypt to better understand the wide range of concerns shared by youth and their families.
  2. Assess the most appropriate guidelines for young people in safe use of the Internet.
  3. Create and design effective education and awareness resources to communicate e-safety information to young people and their parents.
  4. Contribute to wider strategic programs and assess those programs from the youth perspective.

Key strategies for achieving these goals include holding focus groups and workshops for parents on Internet safety as well as monthly awareness meetings with youth to identify and promote Internet safety tips to parents, youth and children; partnering with key international organizations and NGOs active in the field; meeting periodically with heads of NGOs for raising awareness and discussing issues; considering a code of ethics for young users; and promoting a system of classification, tools, and filters.

As a first step, the Focus Group is organizing a national conference on Internet safety issues under the title “Young People in the Internet and Mobile Age: Safe and Empowered !”. The conference, will held in March 2008 at Egypt’s Smart Village, will bring together a range of stakeholders to hear about lessons learned from organizations around the world dealing with these issues, as well as youth, library professionals, parents’ groups, representatives of the Egyptian government,and professionals from education, industry, media, law enforcement, and civil society sectors. The conference will showcase best practices, identify potential hazards, and plan for future action to trigger a national and regional dialogue about safety on the Internet.

This track will also establish an e-Safety Focus Group for Parents in collaboration with Childnet International. This focus group gives members of Childnet and the Cyber Peace Initiative the opportunity to review with parents the kind of efforts that are needed to increase parents’ understanding of the issues as well as enable them to keep pace with their children’s use of the Internet. The initial focus group will bring together 25 parents for a four-hour workshop to assess current awareness, explain risks and other issues such as Internet governance, hear from parents about their fears and anxieties, discuss possible messages, and review with them similar campaigns from around the world.


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