PM calls for online safety measures for children

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada: Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has called for the implementation of safety measures to protect children in the Caribbean from potential dangers they face on the Internet.

“We must ensure that, as a region, we develop coherent strategies which deal with the well-being and rights of children,” Thomas said in a statement to mark World Telecommunications and Information Day last Sunday. He said that attention must be paid to three critical areas in developing such plans.

The first area in this approach is technology, said Thomas, who noted that parental control software can be installed on home and school computers.

Thomas is responsible for Science and Technology in the Quasi-Cabinet of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

“From filtering software to educational video games, there are now more ways than ever for children, young people and parents to keep themselves safe online,” he said. “We must ensure that our online safety strategies keep up with technology and the ways our children access the Internet and interact with others online.”

He also said there was a greater need for education to help children avoid the risks and pitfalls, and to “enable them to benefit from the extraordinary possibilities that the Internet provides”.

Thomas said legislation and law enforcement are lacking in the region and sorely needed.

“Currently, in many CARICOM countries, this safety net does not yet exist,” he said. “Our children are at risk because they can get unintentionally swept up in the booming multi-billion dollar online child pornography and sale industry.”

Although Thomas acknowledged many countries in the region are signatories to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, he said more could be done “since other regions are now addressing specific legislation which deals with children’s rights and protection in cyberspace”.

“We must broaden all efforts across national and regional borders and through broad alliances to make the world and the Internet a safe, rewarding and educational experience for children,” Thomas said.

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