Cyber Warders to Ensure a Safer Internet for All

Dilhani Thantirimudalige

Safer Internet Day (SID) celebrated its 18th edition across the globe on 9th February 2021 under the slogan, “Together for a better internet”. The idea was to send an open call for all stakeholders to join in an effort to make the internet a safer place, especially for children, youth and women.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, policymaker, youth or child – everyone has a role to play in creating and maintaining a safer internet for all. Millions from 170 countries around the world have shown great interest, taking part in many activities to help get this awareness campaign going. 

With the ongoing pandemic, the internet has become an essential service within the new normal work, learn and play life we must lead within the confines of our homes. However, we also hear of various malpractices such as frauds, fake news, hate speech and blackmailing taking place online on a daily basis. Children, youth and unmarried women are the main victims of these cybercrimes. Research conducted by the global child welfare organization, Save the Children found that 45 million videos and photos of children being sexually abused were reported to 164 US-based tech companies. Adults too, fall prey to online activities such as impersonating others or creating false accounts which leak private and insulting information. Some of these cybercrimes are so damaging that it even leads to suicide among women and youth. 

Cyber violence is taken lightly because there seems to be no physical harm and the impact of violence is underrated. 

To mark Safer Internet Day 2021 in Sri Lanka, a young, innovative and enthusiastic group called Cyber Warders and the HackaDev Team with the support of the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP),  launched a Cyber Care app to help safeguard the internet user against cyber violence and provide required safety information in all aspects.

The app provides emergency assistance and includes a directory of important contact numbers such as the police, hospitals, and organizations that support victims of cyber violence including the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) Women in Need (WIN), the Grassrooted Trust,  and  Save The Children. These organizations are known for their uncompromising services in combating cyber crimes. . Another special feature of the app is a resource library of information related to cyber violence and how to be safe online. This knowledge is useful in cases where legal help is required against a perpetrator. The app also has a parental care feature that can help parents track their children’s location and monitor how much time children spend on social media. This non-intrusive approach is a great way to keep children safe. This app also has games to attract children which teach them about cyber violence and where to seek help if they become victims. 

This initiative is a result of a Thematic Challenge conducted by the UNDP in 2019 under the theme Preventing Cyber Violence and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. The Cyber Warders idea of the Cyber Care app was supported by the HackaDev team and backed by the Inclusive Governance and Gender Team at UNDP Sri Lanka. This is a timely innovation as a large number of young people are frequently online and are vulnerable to cyber bullying. It is also impressive that a young group of people want to make a difference and stand up on behalf of victims. The Cyber Care mobile application was launched via Zoom and is freely available on the Google Play Store. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.cyberwarders.cybercare .

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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