Ministry of Education and Research approves Online Child Safety Standards

The Ministry of Education and Research recently approved Online Child Safety Standards. It is the result of over 10 years of advocacy by La Strada Moldova in collaboration with other NGOs and competent authorities, a document that has been worked on very much and by the book, in order to help young people from all over the country to find favorable solutions for a better and safer online environment.

Studies conducted in Moldova on online safety attest to the growing use of the internet, children being exposed to different risks. This suggests the need to develop complex actions of involving educational institutions, families and civil society organizations in informing and creating competences that will help them adopt a responsible behavior, surf the internet without risk and report cases of abuse.

Five years ago, the Ministry of Education and Research (MER) for the first time made a commitment to some actions to promote the online safety of children, when the action plan on promoting the safety of children and adolescents in the internet was approved. This policy document establishes that one of the obligations of the MER is to promote online safety by conducting annual activities in the school community, in the context of Children’s Safer Internet Day and Cyber Security Month. The issue is that this document lacks a systemic approach to online safety in the field of education, and the actions carried out indicate fragmentary efforts, without a clear vision of integrating the subject into the educational context.

The rapid development of the internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) has given rise to a rapid flow of digital information, products and services. This development, on the one hand, contributes to the modernization of the educational process and, in general, to the growth of the national economy, and, on the other hand, it also requires firm actions to combat the distribution of illegal content and behaviors online, which are dangerous for children and adolescents. The European Commission proposes a reference framework for citizens’ digital competence, focusing on 5 core areas, which include online safety.

Digital education is fundamental in preparing children’s interaction with cyberspace, as well as in preventing and combating various forms of online abuse. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the digitization process and essentially increased the degree of access of young people to technologies.

The above-mentioned transformations, national and international, determined the development by La Strada of standards for the online protection and safety of children/students (Standards). The Standards aim to ensure a necessary minimum of actions that general education institutions must develop in order to strengthen the effort of promoting online safety and to create a safe and protected environment for children/students, establishing criteria for informing teachers, parents and children/students about online safety on a regular basis.

The Standards were developed in accordance with the Council of Europe recommendations to promote digital citizenship education, recommendations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Digital Competences Framework, the Digital Education Action Plan, developed and approved by the European Commission.

The Standards are a broad document covering the following key areas:

- school governance;

- training of teaching staff;

- policies and procedures;

- involvement of parents;

- online safety education;

- secure technologies and infrastructure, to support the education system in developing and implementing measures aimed to contribute to the online safety of children/students by developing commitment to online safety at the local level, aiming to empower the school community to interact positively in the online environment, without risks, for the safety and well-being of the child.

By implementing systemic actions in each school, Moldovan children will be less vulnerable to online risks, benefiting from support in school, where they will be helped to prevent risk situations and solve some of the problems they encounter online.

Between August 2021 and May 2022, the developed Standards were piloted in 6 educational institutions. La Strada, which developed these Standards, in collaboration with the MER, wanted to assess the knowledge, attitudes and competences of students and parents in the field of online protection and safety, to prepare educational institutions for the implementation of the Standards, and to adjust and approve these Standards.

To carry out the assessment, the company SOCIOPOLIS was contracted, which developed a complex approach, focused on assessing the knowledge, attitudes and competences of students, parents, teachers and on preparing educational institutions for the implementation of Standards (baseline study), as well as on assessing the impact of Standards on changes in the knowledge, attitudes and practices of students, parents, teachers and changes in educational institutions after their piloting.

In the context of the approval of the Standards, the International Center La Strada will continue to provide support to the MER in the process of implementing the Standards in all educational institutions, will continue training teachers and other professionals (responsible for online safety, school psychologists) in educational institutions in terms of online protection and safety of children, etc. 


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