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Kids Doing Homework

Protecting Futures: Red PaPaz's Safer Internet Center-Viguías

"For Red PaPaz, being safe online means crafting a digital environment where children can freely explore and engage with the online world without stumbling on harmful content or facing online threats. It's all about shielding their personal information, ensuring their privacy and steering responsible online behaviour. Being safe online is a shared responsibility in which parents, educators, tech companies and government have a role in ensuring that our children and youth can benefit from being online while being safe.” 

-Alejandro Castaneda Molina, Head of the Secure Internet Centre – Red PaPaz

Protecting Futures: Red PaPaz's Safer Internet Center-Viguías Leads the Charge Against Online Child Exploitation in Colombia

In a landmark initiative to protect children and adolescents from the risks of the digital world, Red PaPaz, a leading civil society organisation in Colombia, is fronting the development of the Safer Internet Center - Viguías. This innovative project, funded by Safe Online, aims to fortify the national response to online child sexual abuse. The consolidation and strengthening of Viguías represent a crucial step forward in enhancing the protection of children in the ever-evolving landscape of the internet.

Safe Online’s Strategic Investment

Safe Online has allocated $3 million to fund two projects aimed at combating online child sexual abuse, and Colombia is one of these projects. Specifically, in Colombia, the investment will support Red PaPaz in strengthening the Safe Online National Centres, which will act as a nationally owned space for the country to prevent, detect, and respond to online child sexual abuse. Marija Manojlovic, Executive Director of Safe Online, emphasises the need for such Centers to bridge the gap in capacity and collaboration to effectively combat online exploitation.

Empowering Colombia's First Spanish-Speaking Safer Internet Center

Carolina Piñeros, CEO of Red PaPaz, expressed pride in developing the first Spanish-speaking Safer Internet Center in Latin America. Based on the European Commission model, and with the support and experience of the hotline Te Protejo, Red PaPaz, INHOPE, and other relevant stakeholders, Viguías aims to provide tools to guide, monitor, train, and inform on the risks that children and adolescents can encounter in digital environments. The innovative 'Viguias' model consists of four key components: hotline (Te Protejo) that has been operating since 2012, an awareness and research center (Knowledge Center), youth initiatives (Tu Lideras), which represents Red PaPaz's first direct experience with young people, and a helpline (Te Guio) for potential offenders to include them as part of the ecosystem that may affect or is affecting children and adolescents.

Through the integration of these components, the Safer Internet Center in Colombia strives to create a comprehensive approach to online safety, addressing various stakeholders and leveraging technological advancements to protect the well-being of children and adolescents in the digital age.


Tackling Online Risks in Colombia

Alejandro Castaneda Molina, Head of the Secure Internet Center – Red PaPaz, emphasises: “Since 2021, we have established the first Spanish-speaking Safer Internet Center in Latin America. Since its inception, we have supported and received support from various stakeholders as the center aims to strengthen national capabilities to prevent child abuse and exploitation in digital environments in Colombia.” Molina adds: “We have achieved this by establishing the capability to collaborate with various authorities in Colombia, thus enhancing the hotline's resilience against the diverse threats that children face online today.”

According to reports from the Te Protejo hotline, a vital component of Viguías, key online risks that children and young people face in the country include cyberbullying, online grooming, sexual extortion, exposure to inappropriate content, and inappropriate chats in groups or gaming platforms. The numbers are staggering, with Te Protejo receiving thousands of reports related to these issues in 2022 and 2023, underscoring the urgency of addressing online risks. Viguías, with its four key components, has made significant strides in combating these challenges.

Molina further elaborates: "We have adopted and adjusted different technical and technological tools to take effective action in preventing and defining child exploitation and abuse in digital environments in Colombia."

The hotline (Te Protejo) has not only received and processed reports but has also collaborated closely with law enforcement agencies, such as the National Police and INTERPOL, processing 73.3% of reports jointly to ensure effective action. The awareness and research center (Knowledge Center) have played a crucial role in disseminating evidence-based content to raise awareness among parents, educators, and caregivers, while youth initiatives (Tu Lideras) have empowered young people to lead initiatives promoting digital safety. Additionally, the helpline for potential offenders (Te Guio) is being developed to intervene and support those at risk of harming children and adolescents online. These efforts are supported by partnerships with government institutions, internet service providers like Telefonica and ETB, and international organisations like INHOPE and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Meta, Google, Twitter, and TikTok. Through collaborative efforts, Viguías aims to create a safer and more resilient online environment for Colombia's children and adolescents.


Empowering Communities and Driving Change

The success story of the Safer Internet Center is not just about numbers and reports but the collective empowerment of communities. Through webinars, SMS, face-to-face meetings, newsletters, podcasts, and social media content, Red PaPaz engages families, educators, and caregivers in a shared responsibility to protect children online. The ‘Tu Lideras’ initiative, involving 22 youth-led projects, showcases the transformative impact of empowering young leaders to champion online safety.

Safe Online’s investment in the country has helped to bolster existing good practices and trial new approaches to enhance Colombia's capacity to respond to online child sexual exploitation.

Looking Ahead: Towards Scalability and Sustainability

"The Safer Internet Center's initiatives, rooted in innovation, collaboration, and youth engagement, position it as a model for other countries in the Latin American region," remarks Molina, and adds: "We believe that parents play a crucial role in ensuring children's online safety by actively engaging with them and having open conversations about the risks they face online. Industry, governments, and international cooperation also have roles to play in building safe online environments."

In conclusion, Red PaPaz's Safer Internet Center Viguías, supported by Safe Online, stands at the forefront of protecting Colombia's digital future. Through a comprehensive and collaborative approach, the initiative not only addresses the immediate challenges of online child exploitation but also empowers communities and drives systemic change in the realm of online safety.


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