Sri Lanka to copy OCA's Internet safety campaign

Sri Lanka to copy OCA's Internet safety campaign

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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THE Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is to model the Internet safety campaign of the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) as that country continues to work to improve its cybersecurity.

The development emanates from a presentation by children's advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison, during a recent visit to Qatar, on digital online safety for children.

“It (presentation) really was looking at the Office of the Children's Advocate's BeSocial…BeSmart campaign that we did, which had us doing an islandwide intervention in terms of seeing how children are using social media; what sites are they using; what are they posting; what times are they going on; who are they going on with; and what are they saying, because we just wanted to understand what the Jamaican child was doing,” Gordon Harrison told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

“When we got that, we actually did research findings, which we published, which a lot of persons reference now in their studies because the data in Jamaica is very low.

We then went back to the drawing board because we said this publication is very academic and thought about how can we do some specific guides that are more child-friendly and age-appropriate and split out what's relevant to who. So we did a little one for children under 12, then we did another set for the teenagers, and another one for adults,” she outlined.

The three social media manuals, styled #BESOCIALBESMART, were launched in 2017.

“I went to present on the model and the minister of interior in Sri Lanka was actually so taken by it that Sri Lanka is now going to see if they can model what we have done here, and so we have established that kind of contact because at the end of their process they are going to share with me what it is they have done and intend, in fact, to use our model as a best practice,” Gordon Harrison said.

Under the OCA's study at the time, it was found that 72 per cent of Jamaican children had access to the Internet at home, while 75 per cent had a Facebook profile.

Another 52 per cent of adolescents had a profile picture, while 53 per cent posted the places they visited frequently, 30 per cent posted phone numbers and 43 per cent shared the names of the schools they attended.

Of the 86 per cent that used social media, only 40 per cent used privacy settings, 43 per cent of students had received messages from strangers which they deemed as inappropriate for their age, while 64 per cent had been contacted by a stranger online in a way which made them feel uncomfortable or scared.

In addition, 63 per cent of boys and 53 per cent of girls had met face-to-face with someone they knew only from online.

In the meantime, government workers on the country's frontlines are expected to, on Friday, be equipped with a tool — reportedly the first of its kind in the Caribbean — that will assist in spotting and dealing with human traffickers.

Gordon Harrison, who is also the national rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said the electronic learning tool will be unveiled to all stakeholders, including, but not limited to, the police, customs officers, and immigration workers during a special launch.

“It's basically a dongle, like a USB stick... it takes them through, visually, what is human trafficking; what does it look like; what are the signs; what does a perpetrator look like; what does a victim look like; what are the different forms it takes in Jamaica.

“We use cartoon-like images to tell stories of children and adults who have been trafficked and we tell them what to do,” Gordon Harrison told the Observer.

She said individuals invited to Friday's function will have a first-hand opportunity to use the tool “to see how it works”.

The technology, christened the Human Trafficking E-Learning Tool, was funded by the British High Commission to the tune of $3million.

In October 2019, the National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons, an agency of the Ministry of National Security, indicated that 96 victims had been rescued since the establishment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit in 2005, with 36 individuals arrested and charged with human trafficking and related offences. Between 2010 and 2018, more than 750 anti-trafficking operations were carried out, resulting in 82 victims being rescued, 30 suspected traffickers arrested, and three prostitution rings dismantled.

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