SmartBus: Next Stop Online Safety
Younger generations are growing up never knowing what it’s like to live without the internet, cellphones or other tech gadgets – a trend the pandemic has reinforced over the past two years as schools closed and the education was moving online for students across the globe.
While the Internet can be fun, exciting and educational, it also has its dangers. Children and teens who are still learning how the world works are vulnerable to risks such as cyberbullying, age-inappropriate content, grooming, data privacy, and identity theft.
children’s charity UNICEF reports that one in three Internet users is a child under the age of 18. And in the EU – according to the 2020 report EU children online from the London School of Economics – more than 80% of children aged 9-16 use a smartphone and 47% use a PC or laptop to connect. The same report also states that more than 20% of children between the ages of 9 and 14 have had a bad experience on the Internet. However, only 44% of respondents asked for help from friends, 37% spoke to their parents and only 7% reported the situation to their teachers.
Cyber insecurity has become a problem that needs to be tackled continuously. With this in mind, Huawei developed the SmartBus project to provide children and teenagers aged 10 to 14 with the information they need to surf the Internet safely. SmartBus mentors create an engaging, interactive and fun learning environment that children can relate to. They do this through activities like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp-inspired games that simulate potentially risky situations like requests to share photos or being encouraged to use gaming apps.
With a #ShareWithoutRisk motto, SmartBus training helps children better understand how to access age-appropriate information and how to take protective measures such as using anti-virus software, updating their devices, choosing strong passwords and setting up social networks to maximize data privacy, including location. Children are also urged to ensure that they act with the same caution online as they would in real life and to report any inappropriate contact immediately to a teacher or parent.
Launched in Belgium on October 4, 2019, the Huawei SmartBus had visited 126 different schools in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain by the end of 2020, reaching more than 25,000 children, parents and teachers.
Back in force after the pandemic, the SmartBus will tour 20 Portuguese cities in the north and south of the country. Up to 5,000 children in more than 24 schools will have learned how to stay safe online by the end of December 2021.