Lessons from Latin America on keeping kids safe on the Internet

In “The Joy of Love,” Pope Francis reminds readers that while new technologies can be a force for good, they can also place the most vulnerable at risk. “We cannot ignore the risks that these new forms of communication pose for children and adolescents,” Francis says, adding that technology “exposes them more easily to manipulation by those who would invade their private space with selfish interests” (No. 278). According to a study from the GSM Association, an organization that represents mobile operators around the world, more than 60 percent of children worldwide are using digital tools; as this number rises, so does the risk of children falling prey to online abuses, from bullying to grooming by sexual predators.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, where crimes against children are rarely investigated, new initiatives are helping children navigate the digital world. The app Project Brazil allows children to report cases of violence anonymously. It also uses location data on the child’s phone to provide information on organizations where the victim can find help. In Costa Rica the app Empodérate, or “Empower Yourself,” educates children on their rights and provides them with resources to report abuse. And in Jamaica there is Ananda alert, which is similar to the AMBER Alert System in the United States. Initiatives like these are welcome. As our reliance on technology grows, Pope Francis reminds us we should always keep in mind the safety of our world’s youngest.

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