​ Digital safety and Freedom of Expression online: Issues garnering attention



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(Narayan Prasad Ghimire) 
Kathmandu, Nov 21 (RSS): How often do you check what your children are watching on the computer and what kind of websites they browse? Are you aware they're using computer and internet to contribute to their study, or being habituated to unwholesome contents through the computer? 

As the internet has become a member of every family these days, the digital behaviour of the children is an essential topic to discuss. Like other developing countries, Nepal, with its gradual expansion of ICT infrastructure, the people's access to internet is on gradual rise. Youths and teenagers are making themselves visible and active in social media especially, Facebook. 
A seminar held on Freedom of Expression on Internet and Digital Rights recently in the Kathmandu discussed various aspects of internet use, where the participants from diverse sectors- media, academia, security agency, curriculum development center, Education Ministry, researchers, school- shared their experience and agreed to work for safe use of internet for better protection and promotion of freedom of expression on internet. 

"I check my teenage daughter's computer every week. And, I don't stop open conversation with children." It was what Deputy Inspector General of Nepal Police Pushkar Karki was saying during the session that focused on the digital safety and school children. 
Presenting a paper to this regard, media researcher Ujjwal Acharya pointed out the need of digital literacy that could prevent children from falling victim to cyber crime. 
Similarly, on a presentation made on school curriculum and safe use of internet and FoE on internet, senior journalist and educationist Hari Binod Adhikari said there were very little contents on safe use of internet while looking into the textbooks/curriculum from Grade 5 to 12. "School curriculum could link internet to social and human rights perspective instead of limiting it to mere ICT," he suggested. 
However, the officials from the Curriculum Development Centre argued that it was difficult to incorporate every changing issues of ICT in school curriculum. Nevertheless, they admitted that curriculum could not be evaluated in isolation. 
Freedom of expression defenders univocally advocated that the rights used offline must be enjoyed online. They also demanded to scrap the Section 47 of Electronic Transaction Act, which has been panicking people in the name of cyber law in Nepal. 
Attending the programme, a school student Poornima Pandey said only change in curriculum would not suffice in Nepal. Equal attention should be given to expand ICT infrastructures and train and update teachers, so that new generation would be fully aware of digital safety and internet rights, she underscored. 
Executive Chief of Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal, said the views surrounding ICT, internet and FoE online would be helpful to forward skill and knowledge needed for Nepali youths.