A million dollar grant from Google.org for Save the Children to a Nordic program promoting children’s and young people’s digital skills and online safety

A million dollar grant from Google.org for Save the Children to a Nordic program promoting children’s and young people’s digital skills and online safety

Despite the extensive efforts to curb the harm children come across in the digital environment, the prevalence of online harm is still intolerably high. With 1 Million USD support from Google.org, Save the Children starts a two-year Digital Citizenship Program to tackle online violations and harmful experiences that children face. The first phase of the program is starting in Finland and Sweden. 

Generally, the vulnerability in the offline life is reflected in the online, as well. Certain groups of children are especially vulnerable, due to their exposure to different risk factors and the lack of protective factors. Especially vulnerable groups include, for example, children belonging to sexual or gender minorities, refugee children and migrant children, children with disabilities or neuropsychiatric challenges and children who have suffered from abuse or who live in the low income families. Girls are encountering negative experiences more than three times more often than boys. 

In Finland up to 50 % of children report having seen violent or otherwise disturbing content over the past year, 21 % of children get sexual messages from adults on a weekly basis and 31 % of teens have experienced cyberbullying during the past term.  

In Sweden, an estimated 70,000 children experience limitations in who they can choose as a partner and 8,500 young people risk being married off against their will, due to honor-related violence and oppression. These children are typically left alone due to a low trust in adults and fear of opening up and have insufficient channels to bring out and seek help to their vulnerable situation. 

As stated above, vulnerability in the offline world is reflected in the online, and it often impacts children’s capability to participate in the issues important to them and/or find solutions to problems they might have. 

Children need tools, education and support to stay safe in the digital world 

Save the Children in the Nordics are well-known for their online child protection expertise. They share a common vision and approach to the phenomenon, but each of them also has specific areas of expertise, which can be put in practice and utilized to support the work of the other partners.  

Until today, limited resources have curbed shared development efforts between the countries. With the support from Google.org, not only can the scale of current activities be increased, but also the process of mutual learning and adoption of solutions developed by others can be accelerated.  

The 1 Million USD grant from Google.org will support the creation of a pan-Nordic collaboration initiative. The first phase of the program is starting in Finland and Sweden to drive synergies and strengthen children’s rights in the digital world. There is a plan to expand programming to other Nordic countries, as well. The Digital Citizenship Program is a continuation of the support from Google.org.  

– Digital technologies play an important role in the lives of families and children. As in real life, often the most vulnerable offline are also the ones most at risk online. It is important to support and equip children with the tools, education and support system, to allow them to have positive online experiences and stay safe online. We are proud to support Save the Children in its efforts to do this and to collaborate closer across Nordic countries to help more children make the most of the digital world, says Program Manager Gianna Fransescutti from Google.org  

Key themes of child rights online include right to participation, right to safety and protection in the online environment and right to health and well-being. The Digital Citizenship Program is supporting vulnerable children aged 6–17 and their support networks, including teachers, parents, carers and professionals working with children, to stay safe and secure online.  

– This program is a great opportunity for us in the countries where children are exposed to digital world the most in the world. This new Digital Citizenship program aims to create a safe and non-discriminating access to digital opportunities to all children, especially those in the margins, and increase the abilities of children and of those being responsible for their education and skills to tackle the challenges which the digital world creates, Development Manager Antti Järventaus from Save the Children Finland adds. 

In Finland the fund is directed to Huippula (the Peakville), which is a service strengthening 5-graders’s knowledge and capabilities in digital well-being and online safety. Save the Children Finland is also coordinating the Nordic Digital Citizenship program.  

In Sweden the funds are directed to developing and spreading content on online safety to children, with a specific focus on children in socioeconomically vulnerable areas, as well as reaching children and young people suffering from honor-based violence and oppression and to support them through an online chat.
  

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Info corner:
The Digital Citizenship Program is based on Save the Children’s Theory of Change, highlighting innovation, evidence-based advocacy, partnerships and results at scale. Save the Children believes in the participation of children, especially those in vulnerable positions, in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of interventions aimed at changing their lives. Child participation (e.g. in the pilot schools and through ecosystem partners) will be a key component of the project.