26 May 2022

The Duke of Sussex has joined young leaders from around the world to launch the Global Child Online Safety Toolkit based on work carried out by University of East London's Professor Julia Davidson OBE and the 5Rights Foundation.

The original research - for the Rwanda policy toolkit - was developed by Professor Davidson of the UEL's Institute for Connected Communities (ICC) in Rwanda in 2019 with the 5Rights Foundation, an NGO dedicated to putting children's rights at the heart of digital design.

The toolkit was launched last week to give global policymakers a roadmap towards building a safe and supportive online world for children.

Professor Davidson said, "It is great news that our research is being used to influence child online protection policy around the world and to guide practitioners in helping make the digital world safer for children globally. The 10 key policy action areas can be applied to any country to make the online world free from harm to children.

"We are thrilled Prince Harry has endorsed the kit, as well as the United Nations."

During the launch, the Duke praised the "ground-breaking work" in creating the toolkit and called for a safer digital world for young people.

He said he hoped his children would "never experience the online world as it exists now" and criticised social media companies for making "unimaginable money" from commercialising users' attention.

Prince Harry said the world needed new digital laws to protect children, such as those being introduced in California, the EU and the UK. Professor Davidson has played a key part in research for the UK's Online Safety Bill requiring companies such as Facebook to protect children and adults from harmful online content.

The Prince said, "We need new laws. We need public pressure. We need strong leadership."

Nick Martlew, executive director, 5Rights Foundation, said, "The fantastic young leaders who helped launch the Child Online Safety Toolkit all agreed: they want to enjoy the enormous benefits of the digital world without having to take risks that society would never tolerate offline. The toolkit is a comprehensive how-to guide for governments to make this a reality and respond to their obligation to keep children safe online." 

Also present at the online launch were representatives from the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union as well as young people between the ages of 13 and 21, from countries including South Africa, UK, Canada and Malaysia.

Professor Davidson has led research addressing major social issues and has driven, influenced and improved national and international policy, industry, and practice in the area of online harms.

This research led to development of a child online protection policy and five-year implementation plan in Rwanda following extensive research and analysis in collaboration with Baroness Beeban Kidron of the 5Rights Foundation. Professor Davidson helped deliver training following implementation of the plan.

The child online protection policy and plan were adopted in 2019 by the Rwandan government across key areas including health, criminal justice, education, industry, civil society and in the community. A national awareness raising campaign was rolled out through community networks and schools in 2019.

The work is being continued by Professor Davidson and Dr Darren Sharpe from ICC in a newly formed Youth Safeguarding Network in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Zambia and South Africa funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund.

Read more about Professor Davidson and the ICC's work.

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