PODGORICA, 16 November 2016 - UNICEF launches the application NETfriends to teach children aged 9-11 how to use the Internet safely. The app contains an educational role-play game, which takes children through real life scenarios and makes them learn how to recognize, prevent, stop and report violence.
UNICEF Representative in Montenegro Benjamin Perks believes that children are mostly bothered by peer violence online. Therefore, through this educational role-play game, they can learn which behaviours are violence and how to prevent, stop and report it.
"We need to strengthen the understanding of children, parents and teachers about both the risks and benefits of the Internet, and in this regard we today launch an innovative app, so children can think through possible scenarios of grooming and online exploitation which may affect them“
Perks points out that UNICEF has joined forces with experts in the field of child development, Internet and violence, with designers, programmers, musicians, children and parents on the development of the application that simulates different scenarios of social media interactions and allows children to notice the possible danger online.
The application NETfriends was developed after research conducted by UNICEF showed that 79 per cent of children aged 9-11 use Internet in Montenegro, and they access it mostly through smartphones.
Children at this age have the weakest digital skills and most need for support. Every second child said not to feel safe online and not to know what to do when someone treats them online in a way that they do not like.
Kristina Mihailovic, Executive Director of the NGO Parents said that the application is exceptionally useful for talk with children on the subject, as well as to recognize all the problematic situations that may arise on the Internet.
"That is why we need to help children recognize negative situations and reduce their occurrence. Members of the NGO Parents have tested the application, they found it very interesting, and it was really a great cause for opening a dialogue on what really happens in the online world and when children use their phones, tablets, computers. We encourage all parents to use this application and talk to their children about it"
Children playing the app NETfriends - UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2016
UNICEF research has shown that one third of children of this age say to know more about the Internet than their parents. Moreover, 1 in 5 say that their parents do not talk to them about what to do when something disturbing happens to them online.
Arijana Nikolic Vucinic, Director of the Directorate for preschool and elementary education and education of persons with special educational needs in the Ministry of Education, said that attracting parents will also attract children, and that is the most important thing – to share this application with everyone.
"By using this application we learn how to use the Internet safely. This means that we as parents should not worry when our children start using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The Ministry has recognized the importance of this application and supports this initiative from the beginning, and we hope that it will become an integral part of the education system“
In 2016, UNICEF began working with the Police and various ministries to build lasting capacity to prevent and prosecute those who would do harm to children online. This has already resulted in arrests.
Milos Vukcevic, General Director of the Directorate for Security Protection Affairs and Supervision within the Ministry of Interior, said that the ministry will continue to support all activities aimed at preventing violence against children on the Internet.
"Every child needs to learn how to use the Internet safely and responsibly, and the responsibility of all institutions and our society is to give contribution to our children to become capable of active participation in the digital society of the 21st century. This can be achieved only if there is a synergy between law enforcement institutions,“ Vukcevic said.
The NET Friends application was developed within the End Violence Online campaign supported by the Government of Montenegro and UNICEF. This Montenegrin campaign is part of the global End Violence Online campaign, which is realized within the #WeProtect – a global initiative created by the UK government to tackle online child sexual abuse and exploitation that includes UNICEF’s programme to address the issue in 17 countries.