What new opportunities exist for the use of technology for child protection?

14 posts / 0 new
Last post
What new opportunities exist for the use of technology for child protection?

Consider and respond to the following questions to begin the conversation:

  • Can new ICTs support communication for development (C4D) approaches and models to help children protect themselves, inform them of available support, and/or change negative societal attitudes toward children to more positive and supportive ones?
  • What new collaborations would be beneficial to improve the effectiveness of using technology to protect children?
  • What could we be doing better? How can we improve the systems we've put in place?

Share your examples, experiences and ideas by adding a new comment to this discussion thread or by replying to existing comments.


How can new techn protect and support Children on the Move

Hi all,

Over the next year, I’ll be working on some research supported by Oak Foundation* that will look at the intersection of ICTs and children who migrate, a.k.a. ‘Children on the Move.’ I hope interested folks will join to share experiences, good practice, challenges, thoughts and ideas on the intersection of ICTs and Children on the Move.


Globally, some 214 million persons are international migrants. In addition, there are an estimated 740 million internal migrants according to the Global Movement for Children. Youth make up a large share of migrants from and in developing countries. Shifts in demographic factors, economic disparity, violent conflict and state failure, natural disasters, resource and environmental pressures, especially climate change, and lack of opportunities for education or employment mean that this number is likely to increase. About one-third of migrants from developing countries are between the ages of 12 and 25, including millions of children under the age of 18. (Stats from here.) ”Yet, in debates on both child protection and migration, children who move are largely invisible. As a result, policy responses to support these vulnerable children are fragmented and inconsistent.”

‘Children on the Move’

Children migrate and move for a host of reasons. They may move on their own will to seek improved opportunities. They may be escaping violence and abuse in the home or at school or running away from an arranged marriage or other cultural practice. They may move due to a lack of opportunity, reduced resources, conflict, or disaster. They may want to get away from life in a refugee camp, or flee other kinds of hardship. They might migrate together with parents or other adults, or they may go alone or with others their age. The migration decision may be made by children themselves, or they may be encouraged by their parents.

In the past, the phenomenon of child mobility has not been seen in its full scope. Children who migrated were often automatically lumped in with those who were trafficked against their will. Programs to support children on the move have not always addressed the variety of motivations and situations. This lack of understanding of the myriad of reasons for children’s mobility has hindered efforts to support and protect them in their different scenarios. More recently efforts have been made to better understand children’s mobility, for example this fascinating 2008-2010 regional study project, supported by a broad platform of child protection agencies, documented and analyzed the many forms taken by the mobility of children and youths in West and Central Africa.

The term ‘Children on the Move‘ has been suggested to describe this group of children under the age of 18 who have aims, motivations and different life circumstances. This is a group which transcends categories. These children may be in a ‘pre-mobility, mobility or post-mobility’ situation (either having arrived to a destination or having returned home). They may also be ‘children left behind’ by their parents or guardians, who, without abandoning them, have emigrated for work within their country of residence or abroad. They may be stateless children, who also suffer the risks and vulnerabilities of mobility.

Risks Children on the Move face

When children move against their will, and /or in absence of protection services and actors, they become highly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor, exploitation and other abuses. This vulnerability is present before they move, during their trip, once they reach a new destination or even after they return home, and therefore support and protection need to be considered from the time they are thinking about moving (or others are thinking about moving them), through the actual migration or ‘move’, upon their arrival, and in the case of their return. In addition, some children may be involved in a series of migrations or they may migrate seasonally. “During movement, a child can float from one sub category to the other. For example, an internally displaced child can be recruited by armed forces or moved across borders for the purpose of exploitation. The risks and opportunities differ per trajectory and conditions of movement,” according to the CoM website.

Children who migrate often face discrimination and marginalization due to beliefs and policies that treat migration as a problem and children who migrate as criminals, and therefore a great deal of work needs to be done to change perceptions and increase societal awareness around the situation of children on the move. Protecting children and reducing their risk of exploitation is a mandate, regardless of the reasons for which they move or migrate.

A systemic approach to protection

In order to improve support for and protection of children on the move, it’s important to look at the situation holistically and systemically and to include the aforementioned different phases of mobility. In addition, several areas need consideration, including children’s own needs and rights; children’s self-protection; community-based protection; government responsibilities and social services; advocacy and public policy and so on. Duty bearers and donors need to improve coordination across silos and borders in order to get better at information exchange, research and data analysis; the creation of prevention and awareness strategies and programs; monitoring actions during all stages; and feedback mechanisms and accountability. (See the proceedings from the CoM Conference for more details.) 

How can ICTs help?

Alongside the growth in children’s mobility, access to new technologies, specifically the mobile phone, has exploded. Yet most often, when child protection and ICTs are mentioned in the same sentence, it is with regard to cyber security and protecting children from the Internet or potential on-line predators.

ICTs are playing a huge role in connecting diaspora with those ‘back home.’  The question arises: How are or how could ICTs be enhancing child protection initiatives and supporting children on the move.

The positive and empowering role of ICTs to support children’s self-protection, improve information and communication via new technology tools and enhance systemic approaches to risk reduction has not been fully developed with regard to child protection in its broader sense, or with regard to child mobility and child protection.

The research 

The research will aim to compile a ‘State of the Practice’ report that will include examples and case studies of current ICT use by, with, among and for CoM; applicable cases and lessons learned from other sectors; gaps, challenges, areas where ICTs may pose new or additional risk; and remaining questions and challenges for future exploration and collaboration.

Certainly new questions, frameworks and areas to explore will arise along the way, but at present, questions include:

  • What needs do children have in different categories and stages of mobility and how are these being (or how could they be) enhanced via better use of new ICTs?
  • Which new technologies are already accessible and being usedby various stakeholders (e.g. children, parents and caretakers, intermediaries, broader communities, local child protection committees and ‘safe houses’, local institutions, social workers, experts, civil servants, governments, national and international NGOs, local and national law enforcement agencies), especially children, adolescents and youth; during pre-mobility, mobility and post-mobility, and upon return, endogenous or institutional, and for what purpose or to what end?
  • What information and communication systems are currently in use at child and family, community, district, national, transnational /regional and global levels for supporting or protecting children on the move and can these systems be improved, promoted or better accessed using new ICTs such as mobile phones?
  • Are there existing scalable, replicable or adaptable examples of the use of ICTs in this area we can learn from? What were the successes, challenges, failures and lessons/good practices?
  • Can new ICTs support communication for development (C4D)approaches and models to help children on the move protect themselves, inform them of available support, and/or change broader societal attitudes toward migrating children to more positive and supportive ones?
  • What can we learn from how ICTs are being used in otherareas (health, human rights monitoring, data gathering / tracking, early warning systems, disasters and emergencies)? Which of these might lend themselves to use with, for, among and by children on the move? Are there relevant evaluations or case studies we can look at and learn from?
  • What are the specific challenges and risks in terms of children on the move that need special attention and exploration when designing programs or eco-systems that integrate ICTs? Security? Privacy? Connectivity? Cost? Context? Sustainability? Feasibility?
  • Where do we take it from here (what needs to happen next)?

Some related resources:

The excellent 2008 report by the African Movement of Working Children and Youth: Early Exodus and Child Trafficking in West Africa: What progress have working children and youth made? 

The AMWCY’s 2009 report “From the gong gong to ICTs

The fascinating study by a consortium of child protection groups on Child Mobility in West and Central Africa.

More information about Children on the Move.

Report from the International Conference on Children on the Move (Barcelona, 2010).


I'd love to have thoughts, examples or ideas to help with this research! Many, many thanks!!

How ICT Can Support Children on the Move

Dear  Linda


My take  on this is that the best service ICT can do to children on the move is to track them and ensure their safety, for instance  children who are unaccompanied  go through many risks ,  there have been cases of  in Kenya for instance , moving from their rural village to come visit an aunt or uncle in the city and they end up getting lost,  the other category is children who leave their homes  to go and work as househelps mainly due to familial poverty, these children end up suffering where they go to seek work,  some are abused others are sent away without pay, whereas  when some complain about the meagre wages or say they want to go home, they are victimized by being accused of theft by servant


KHL@School pilot

A pilot we conducted recently in Australia was the use of video conferencing to connect a KHL (Kids Helpline) counsellor to school children during class time. Classroom sessions were booked by teachers through an online booking database we built on our website, and the teacher was able to nominate from a range of mental health and well-being issues that they wanted the counsellor to cover over a one hour period. The session was not aimed at offering individual or group counselling, but oriented towards teaching children that issues they might be struggling privately with such as being bullied or abused or domestic violence at home or anxiety etc  are common and that its ok to ask for help, and that there are services like Kids Helpline available for them to use and these are the media its accessible through etc etc..... This kind of message is important particularly in our rural and remote communities where we have no services, very blokey/boys don't cry attitudes and significantly high suicide rates,  particularly amongst young males.

The sessions were very interactive with kids encouraged to ask questions ( a particular method was used to make this "safe" to do) and the evaluation of the pilot found the level of child engagement was very high, that future intentions to contact the service if needed were high, and that it was an extremely effective way of accessing large numbers of young people for relatively low cost.

Using voice-based interventions to protect children?

I wanted to pull out an idea that Laura shared in another thread and ask you all what opportunities you see for this new technology:

Laura Walker Hudson wrote:

Where literacy is an issue, you may want to steer clear of SMS, in favour of voice-based interventions. One tool you can use for this is Freedom Fone.

I noticed there was a Twitter exchange a few months ago asking users: do you think there are opportunities to experiment with toll free helplines for illiterate children on the move? I'd be interested in hearing from this group how voice-based inerventions like this could be used to protect children. Or, are you already using technology like this? If so, how? Share your stories and ideas!

Radio & Flyers

kantin wrote:

I'd be interested in hearing from this group how voice-based inerventions like this could be used to protect children. Or, are you already using technology like this? If so, how? Share your stories and ideas!

I am not so sure whether this suits here, but what about all the radio productions and broadcasting done with, for and by children & young people? Participatory radio is a tool we use to give children and young people a voice, very powerful collaborations between radio stations, producers and youth. Topics are picked by the youth, recordings, editing and live broadcasts are done by youth. Often the topics selected are related to child protection issues. The responses from the listeners are huge, calling and texting with their views and suggestion on the topics. Not sure, but it might be that children on the move do have access to radio or pick up some shows.

Invisible Children partners spread around flyers in the bush for children abducted by the LRA in Northeren Uganda to "come home". They also used  the radio to spread these messages and use radio as an early warning tool. Have a look! 

New opportunities for using radio to protect children

Great examples - thanks for sharing, Ernst! For those of you interested in learning more about how to use radio, check out our dialogue summary on Using Radio to Empower and Engage Communities.

What other new opportunities exist for using radio to protect children?

LRA flyers

They were very powerful vids on the radio program and on the placement of flyers reaching out to LRA children in the bush Ernst....thank you for posting them.....May I ask you if you are aware of repercussions for those who respond to the messages and who do "come home"....?


Philippa Hawke wrote:

May I ask you if you are aware of repercussions for those who respond to the messages and who do "come home"....?

I do not know the details of the project, but I am sure one can get in touch with Invisible Children and ask them for the repercussions on those who reponded to the messages. Would indeed be a good thing to do. In light of dialogue, does someone want me to find this out?


Better connection btwn local and national systems?

In another discussion thread, Linda asks:

lraftree wrote:

...how can we connect local child protection systems with national ones, and can ICTs play a role there? I don't have an answer but very interested in what others think!

What new opportunities and ideas are out there to better connect local systems to national ones? Are there models that we can learn from in other sectors? Or models from child protect systems on other levels (national to international)? Share your thoughts and ideas here!

Ideas for new collaborations?

Collaborations between organizations, companies and/or government institutions can often lead to innovative initiatives.  In another discussion thread, Michael mentioned an organization called Keeping Children Safe for which the working group includes: World Vision, War Child Holland, Save the Children and Plan International.  This looks like a great collaboration!

What other promising collaborations exist that work to protect children? What collaborations don't exist yet, but could provide needed resource-sharing and idea-making? What new collaborations have the potential to move forward the impact of using technology to protect children?

Academic collaborations

Hi Kristin,

I just had a conversation this morning with a colleague about how vulnerable child protection organisations are to becoming irrelevant and therefore unsustainable without hard evidence about their use of technology to back up their "effective investment" claims to potential funders/ donors/corporate partners, so I thought I would add that I think collaborations with universities and respected academic and research partnerships are important. One example of a huge research collaboration we are partners in is the "Young and Well" Co-operative Research Centre:- a collective funded by the Australian Federal Government to explore how young people use technology and its impact on mental health and wellbeing http://www.yawcrc.org.au/safe-and-supportive/preventative-e-tools . Members include about 30 child protection and youth mental health oriented services (including peak bodies like NAPCAN), about 12 universities, several technology companies including Google and Yahoo, justice and policing agencies and a range of state and Federal government departments. We are currently in year two of this five year project so will have more to tell at a later date about the project's findings on a range of topics related to creating services that build resilience in and deliver support services to young people via ICT.

Listen to children

In the late 70's there was a note in BRIS' (physical ;-) mailbox from a girl, asking us to start a phone line for children specifically - in 1980 we did. In the late 90's when we had put up our first info home page with an info@ mailaddress, children used that to send us mails with needs for supportive answers - in 2001 we launched the (better & more securely designed) BRIS-mail. The following years children urged us to start a chat service, this being their preferred way to communicate on-line - in 2007 the BRIS-chat started...

Still new technologies are and will be coming, today we might try to adapt to social networks/media, mobile apps etc. We need to be openminded for them - can they help children and can they help societies to improve child protection systems? Again, as discussed in quite a few threads here, looking at the purpose first and then assessing the technology's potential in relation to that. In our world for example, it can be to critically assess which channels or techniques would be suitable for info and promotion of the child helpline (only) and which could/ could not be used for contacts & counselling.

Especially when it comes to new technologies today, where at least in many contexts children and young people are the forerunners, again I think a very fruitful way to track new opportunities, to develop or improve systems is through listening to the children themselves. And the challenge being to find instruments to get their voices in a good and secure way. A child helpline is one such instrument, and we hope to be able to continue to listen to its music well ourselves, as well as mediate its music well to others.

Listen to children

Hi Peter

Just wanted to say, this is the perfect example of appropriate technology use. The most effective way to engage any community is to go where people already are - and whether that's SMS, radio, Skype, or telephone, the barrier to entry and engagement is instantly lowered. In urban South Africa, Mxit is the only place to try to connect with young people, because it's the most cost-effective way for them to hang out with their friends. SMS is way more expensive for the amount of data you can send, so people are on Mxit and there have been some very successful literacy efforts using the platform.



Topic locked