China Focus: Concerted efforts urged to better protect minors online

Xinhua News Agency | Oct 20, 2019 at 2:04 PM

WUZHEN, Zhejiang Province, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Governments, societies and businesses were urged to make joint efforts to ensure a better environment for the vast number of underage internet users.

Officials and business executives made the call at a forum held during the sixth World Internet Conference, which opened Sunday in the river town of Wuzhen in east China's Zhejiang Province.

Calling the internet a double-edged sword, Wang Jiarui, chairman of the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, said while the internet provides a comprehensive platform for minors' learning, entertainment and social interaction, infringements of minors' rights are also rampant online.

Faced with this reality, there is a societal consensus on the need to build an online governance mechanism led by the government and participated in by all parties in order to create a wholesome online environment for minors, said Wang.

"In this digital age, the development of information and communication technologies has brought with it great opportunities for children, however, it has also brought risks to their safety and wellbeing," said Omar Abdi, UNICEF deputy executive director.

"Protecting children from online threats requires a true ecosystem approach," Abdi said, stressing the need for coordinated efforts from all participants in the internet sector.

As of July 31, 2018, about 169 million minors in China, or 93.7 percent of all Chinese minors, had access to the internet, according to a report released jointly by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China and the China Internet Network Information Center.

Nearly 16 percent of the 31,158 respondents in their survey claimed they had experienced cyber-bullying or cyber-harassment, while more than 30 percent said they had been exposed to harmful online content related to violence, pornography, gambling or drugs.

Zhu Xisheng, secretary-general of the China Children and Teenagers' Fund, emphasized the urgent need to raise the risk awareness among children, especially girls.

Citing a survey conducted by his fund and tech giant Tencent, Zhu said compared with boys, girls are more vulnerable to harmful content online, such as violence and sex, and falling victim to online crimes.

Among other measures, he called for establishing an online information rating system, to prevent children from accessing harmful content online.

At the forum, Mark Ren, chief operating officer of Tencent, highlighted the social responsibilities of tech companies in protecting minors online.

Using facial recognition and real-name registration, Tencent has set up the most stringent system in China to combat addiction to games, covering over 97 percent of the company's active game users, according to Ren.

Protecting minors is the top priority in all Tencent's products and services, even though some decisions to this end may harm the company's profits, said Ren.