Today is World Press Freedom Day - a special day when the world observes the right to freedom of expression of all people.
This year there is a special focus on social media and raising awareness that your right to freedom of expression extends to the social media platforms that you use.
If you want to learn more about the day and how you can get involved, visit: http://bitly.com/keepsocialmediafree
Also, check out this video which shows how social media can be a powerful tool for expression when more traditional methods fall short.
Who inspires you?
I am sure you have been asked this question before – by a teacher or perhaps during an interview for a job or an internship.
Many people mention their parents or other family members; some mention great statesmen like Nelson Mandela; others will name sports or music stars. While I recognize the commitment, talents and sacrifices of all these people, those who have left the greatest impact on me and the way I view the world are people whose names are unlikely to ever get mention beyond their communities.
There’s Ruth, who was so concerned with the development and education of young children in her community that she started her first early childhood development centre in the dining room of her house.
There’s Michael, an amazing role model for young men (and young women), who grew up in an orphanage and now works for an organization that provides assistance to orphans and other vulnerable children.
There’s Selinah, who assists families affected by HIV and AIDS; waking up at 4 am each morning to make sure she can get her own family ready for the day ahead.
There’s Sesie, a community care giver, whose efforts have ensured that the newborn babies she helped 12 years ago when she started, are now about to enter high school.
We are saturated with stories, footage and images showing the philanthropic work of famous individuals. It has its purpose of course – many of them help raise the profile of important issues, or they use their influence to raise funds for projects. But in the end it is the Ruths, the Michaels, the Selinahs, and the Sesies who are at the core of improving the lives of the most vulnerable children.
And I don’t think we can say enough about them and the significant personal sacrifices they make to do this.
As part of the focus on the progress for children since the start of the Millennium Development Goals, UNICEF is asking you to nominate someone you know who inspires you because they are dedicated to putting the last child first.
Who inspires you? Who puts the last child first?
Nominate them here: uni.cf/nominate
The photograph with this post is of Sesie, the community care giver in a rural part of South Africa, as she exits the home of one of the families she supports.
‘Cyberbullying’ has been a buzz word in conversations about Internet safety in recent years, with much concern for the wellbeing of young users – children and adolescents.
If the results of studies conducted by UNICEF and other institutions are anything to go by, a lot of younger users of the Internet have experienced some form of insults/ harassment/ embarrassment while online:
• According to the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention study on cyber bullying in South Africa 37 per cent of children reported some form of cyber abuse. • In a UNICEF study into social networking site Mxit, also in South Africa, 26 per cent of respondents reported having been insulted while using the platform. A figure of 26 per cent was also reported in a UNICEF study on school violence in Serbia among older school pupils. • A study on bad online experiences with Facebook users showed that 26.7 per cent reported having a bad experience on Facebook . • Studies conducted by UNICEF in Vietnam revealed that 14 per cent of respondents in the urban study, and 20 per cent of respondents in the rural study indicated that they had experienced incidents where someone had ever used the Internet or phone to “bully, threaten or embarrass” them.
It is important to point out that there are a number of ways in which the term ‘cyberbullying’ is interpreted and most researchers do not use the term directly when they ask children about their online experiences. However, even though all these studies asked the question differently and looked across different social networking platforms, the Internet seems like it can be a pretty mean place for a lot of users.
Research into the reasons behind this is not as abundant as research on how many people it has happened to, but in some of the studies that have looked at this phenomenon the answers range from the anonymity offered by the Internet; the fact that an online bully doesn’t see the immediate reaction of the victim (making it harder to connect emotionally); and that in some cases those doing the bullying think that it is just in the name of fun, a joke.
I had an experience a few months ago when an innocent tweet of mine about preferring one city over another in my country left me with three messages from complete strangers calling me an 'uninformed' and 'deluded' 'little girl'. This was not a serious incident but I was shocked that people who did not even know me would even say such things. It got me thinking – are people generally meaner and nastier on the Internet than they would ever be face-to-face?
Tell me what you think.
When I first joined Twitter at the end of 2009 I didn’t really get the appeal, especially after the novelty of knowing my favourite musicians’ habits wore off and it seemed impossible to keep up with the pace. During 2010 I went back-and-forth in my relationships with Twitter, un-following the people I thought would have added value, and organically coming across new people who it seemed were interested in the same things I was, and were having engaging and intelligent discussions about them.
Over the past two years it is through these people on Twitter that I believe I have become a better person. They are not famous – at least not in the traditional sense; most of them are not academics or experts; and I do not know them in the so-called offline/real world (although I have subsequently met some).
What they do have in common is that they are intelligent, engaged and have convictions – and what they have done, and continue to do on a daily basis, is to challenge me and to stimulate my critical thinking. There are many among this pool of my Twitter connections with whom I do not agree on many topics; but by engaging with them, or following their arguments and reasoning I am able to sharpen my own opinions or come to understand why they feel the way they do – and this makes me a better person.
It has also been wonderful to see how over these two years my Twitter “community” (the people I follow and the people they follow and re-tweet) has transformed and how the plurality of voices is growing, bringing new angles and insights into discussions.
Twitter has often been criticised for being too brief a platform for meaningful discussion, but I don’t fully agree. Yes, 140-character ‘thought bites’ are perhaps not the most ideally designed for discussing complex issues such as gender, race, governance and poverty – face-to-face debates would be much better. But Twitter is flexible, accessible at all times, and exposes you to people you might not normally come into contact with in the offline world; and the 140-character really teaches you to get to the point.
My advice is to keep an open mind, and to think and read some more before you plunge head first into a discussion on Twitter – to avoid becoming embroiled in ‘twars’ (twitter wars). Some of the arguments might make you emotional but keep a cool head and don’t resort to online fights and trolling. And remember – when you post online you post to the world.
Today is Safer Internet Day - a day of awareness-raising which started a few years ago and was originally mostly observed in Europe. Now it is used all around the world to promote a safer Internet environment for children.
The theme for the day is “connect with respect” and it is based on the idea that together with digital rights, come digital responsibilities. In the spirit of this theme we have come up with some suggestions for what a good digital citizen should and shouldn’t do. Let me know what you think and if you have any other suggestions?
BE CONSIDERATE: You have the right to express your views and opinions on social networks, blogs and comments…but you have the responsibility to respect the views of others, even if you may not agree. Don’t troll or post content that is offensive to others.
BE AWARE: You have the right to access information on the Internet that can help you with school work, planning your career, looking after your health or even just having fun…But be aware that not all the information on out there is true, accurate or legal.
BE TRUTHFUL: Don’t lie about your age. Don’t download illegal content or cheat by copying or buying essays or assignments from others.
BE CAUTIOUS: You have the right to meet new people who share your interest on the Internet…but avoid sharing personal information like your address, phone number or school that could put your safety at risk.
BE SAFE: You have the right to be safe from bullying or harassment in the online world….and you have the responsibility not to take part in the bullying of other by spreading rumors or posting and sharing hurtful or embarrassing stories or photos.
BE YOURSELF: You have the right to privacy…but respect the privacy of others by not logging into their accounts or using their phones or profiles without their permission.
BE SMART: Once you share a photo or a video it is hard to control what happens to it and who sees it. Think twice before you click ‘send’.