H.E. KÁROLY SOLYMÁR tells ITU News how Hungary is implementing child online protection (COP) at the national level – and the role of ITU in supporting this work.
ITU NEWS: How would you evaluate the current level of online safety for children and youth in Hungary?
KAROLY SOLYMAR: There is a clear need for standardized indicators. The regular measurement of such indicators will allow us to set up a Digital Child Protection Index (DGYIndex), resembling the European Union’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). This index could provide insights to questions on the level of safety, changes in safety levels as the digital environment changes, or because of the applied interventions.
Internet safety depends on factors like degrees of risks, media literacy levels or the state of the digital child protection ecosystem.
Those implementing the Digital Child Protection Strategy of Hungary have already conducted the necessary research for establishing the DGYIndex. We are expecting the first results soon.
ITN: What kind of new challenges have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic?
KS: The transition to digital working and the increased Internet usage that came with the online education, both brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, have mostly increased the risks of addiction, cyberbullying, and data privacy concerns. We are expecting the results of recent research on these trends as well.
ITN: What measures has the government applied when it comes to ensuring the online safety of children and youth?
KS: As a part of the Digital Success Programme in 2016, the Hungarian Government established the Digital Child Protection Strategy of Hungary (DGYS). The DGYS has since launched several successful pilot projects. One of the important projects is the collaboration with DJP Points, which operate in a vast number of Hungarian municipalities. By offering digital child protection ‘trainings’, the project is helping prepare parents to tackle the challenges of digital parenting. Another crucial program is NETMENTOR, in which younger students are educated by older student ‘mentors’.
ITN: What kind of media have been helpful in Hungary’s implementation of child online protection?
KS: Numerous awareness-raising or support materials, sample lessons for teachers and coaches have been produced in recent years and are freely available for anyone at digitalisgyermekvedelem.hu.
Based on the recognition that today’s youth is easiest to reach with short videos, we have produced ten video spots and a series of text ads to highlight and to raise awareness on the most relevant risks.
ITN: Are you planning any new initiatives for the near future?
KS: The refinement and perfecting of the legal frameworks are constantly on the table. The law must always keep pace with the challenges brought by the ever-changing online environment. We are also planning a dedicated child online protection observatory programme by which we can assess the effectiveness of programmes not only in Europe, but also in the Americas or even in the Asia-Pacific within a few years. That way, we can identify the possible connecting links with our Hungarian projects.
ITN: How do ITU’s COP principles bring value to your country?
KS: Securing the digital space is a common concern and responsibility for all of us.
The Internet is a global network, and it is vital that the countries of the world work together to find solutions to the problems that arise and to protect children from the dangers and risks of the online space.
At the same time, it must not be forgotten that countries also have individual characteristics, it is necessary to adapt good practices to the specifics of a given country or to make a good practice global.
Accessing a global guideline such as the ITU Child Online Protection Guidelines in Hungarian language is another highlight in our value-creating online child protection work. In the event of an epidemic affecting the whole world, any guide that helps and raises society’s digital awareness is important to make available to everyone. Sango’s figure is a friendly, trusting figure for kids. The character makes it more playful and fun to acquire digital skills, with a special focus on digital rights.
Following the change of regime, Hungary was one of the first to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Based on these efforts, there is no question that ITU’s Guidelines will be successful in Hungary as well.
- H.E. Solymár is the Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology of Hungary.