KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20: The Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department will look into more digital inclusiveness in the area of protecting children, especially by children themselves, next year in efforts to improve Malaysia’s Child Justice system, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
In her article titled ‘Protecting Our Children Online: The Digital Way Forward’, shared on her social media platforms and distributed to the media in conjunction with the World Children’s Day today, she said “safeguarding our children in the digital realm is not just a responsibility; it is a promise we make to the future of our nation”.
“This Children’s Day, let us commit to creating a digital space where our children not only thrive but are also empowered and safe. By incorporating child-centric approaches into our cybersecurity measures, we can foster a generation of digitally literate, confident and protected individuals,” she said.
According to Azalina, the implementation of child-friendly reporting platforms would be a game-changer.
Envision a world, she said, where reporting a concern mirrors seeking assistance from a trusted friend.
“Through the incorporation of intuitive features and design principles centred around children, these applications have the potential to revolutionise the reporting process, turning it into a positive and supportive experience that nurtures a child’s sense of security and confidence,” she said.
She admitted that while these concepts are not novel, evidenced by existing platforms like https://cybertip.ca/en/ by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/ by the Australian Federal Police, and https://report.cybertip.org/ by the United States National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, they underscore the effectiveness of utilising the digital space in a manner that empowers and safeguards children.
Acknowledging that children now are a generation raised in the digital era, Azalina said the government’s commitment should be shifted to amplify their digital literacy and capacity.
“It is essential to enhance their understanding through educational programmes and initiatives and arm them with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the digital landscape.
“This involves empowering them to make informed decisions, identify potential threats and safeguard themselves effectively in the online sphere,” she said, adding that, moving forward, it was important to include children in policy-making.
“In embracing the ‘nothing for us without us’ concept, we recognise that the active participation of children in decision-making processes is fundamental to creating policies that genuinely meet their needs and concerns.”
According to Azalina, safeguarding children in the ever-expanding digital landscape is a matter of paramount importance as they are the most precious members of society and the future of Malaysia.
“Whether this is a unique Malaysian trend or a global phenomenon, I commonly witness children and toddlers engrossed in gadgets, be it a smartphone or tablet, at dining tables and at various public spaces, wherever my journey takes me.
“Technology is advancing at a fast rate and 94 per cent of Malaysian children today are active internet users. Where their tiny footsteps resonate through the vastness of the digital realm, it becomes our collective responsibility to ensure that these steps are guided with understanding, empathy and unwavering protection,” she said.
Azalina said the society’s commitment lies in fostering a digital space where the innocence of childhood thrives, shielded from the potential pitfalls that come with the limitless possibilities of the online world.
She said that, in the quest for protection, empowering children’s voices assumes a vital role.
“I urge all of us to take a moment to envision a space where our children feel not just seen, but truly heard. Let’s cultivate a sense of ownership in our children for their online experiences. Instead of relying solely on adults for reporting and deterrence, let us equip them with the essential information and confidence to report any cybercrimes or incidents they or their peers may encounter,” she said.
According to Azalina, fostering a culture where children feel empowered to voice their concerns would contribute to a safer online environment for all.
She said Malaysia had highlighted the significance of cybersecurity in this digital age at the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit last week and, as part of this initiative, Malaysia is committed to integrating child-centric cybersecurity measures to ensure the safety of its young digital citizens.
“Their (children) protection is integral to the success of our broader cybersecurity efforts,” she added.