The pandemic saw an unprecedented number of children rely on technology and digital platforms to keep up with learning, stay entertained and connected to the outside world.
However, not all children have the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to keep themselves safe online. To help children and parents address concerns of online safety, Meta is supporting the RATI Foundation (Aarambh India Initiative) to launch ‘Meri Trustline’.
The first of its kind helpline is dedicated to offer support to children under the age of 18 years who are in distress on account of facing online safety concerns, such as cyber bullying and loss of control over sensitive media including self-generated child sexual abuse material.
The helpline, operational between 9 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday, will offer support in six distinctive ways depending on the need and severity of the issue – Technical Support will include assistance in taking down content that the child feels is intimate/private.
Emotional Support will be offered in the form of counseling to callers in mental distress; Social Support will extend to callers that require social work intervention including family intervention, Informational Support will include factual and expert knowledge regarding the issue, Legal Support which includes legal advice and intervention for victims and families and Referral Support that will connect the victims to organizations across India & institutions including law enforcement.
For children looking for support related to self-generated sensitive images or non-consensual intimate images, RATIFoundation will connect the caller with Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), UK to take action to prevent these images from surfacing online.
The Foundation will also provide support in connecting the children and caregivers to relevant law enforcement agencies.
Speaking at the launch of the helpline, Antigone Davis, VP, Global Head of Safety, Meta said, “Online safety of children is a serious issue, and we are committed to build an environment where children feel safe across our platforms. Each day more children are coming online and to keep them safe from the risks of online harm, there is a need to create a reporting model which is not only child-friendly and effective, but it can also be adapted by industry at large. With the launch of Meri Trustline, we are supporting the RATI foundation to take a lead in this industry-first initiative that will enable reporting online threats to children across the industry.”
Meri Trustline (6363176363) will be available in both Hindi and English to children and other stakeholders including caregivers, parents/guardians, teachers, siblings, young-adults, and allies. Other institutions or organizations dealing with or acting on behalf of children can also call on the helpline. Run by the RATI Foundation, the helpline will have a team of counselors, including tech and mental health experts addressing queries on the calls.
The Meri Trustline team will also work closely with a strong advisory group of lawyers, experts, and social workers to offer support to the callers based on individual needs.
Uma Subramanian, Co-Founder and Director, RATI Foundation said, “India’s youth are rapidly coming online and as per a Kantar report, 60% of all internet users in India will be under 19 by 2025. The RATI foundation aims to ensure that all young people in India have access to systems of safety as they explore the internet. We are extremely happy to have Meta’s support in Meri Trustline that will ensure greater online safety for children.”
Present at the launch of the Trustline, Neha Dhupia, Actor, Producer, Host, Founder Freedom to Feed said” As a mother of two kids, I believe that each child has the right to feel safe while staying online on social media. A collaborative approach involving social media platforms, civil society and users is important towards creating a safe online environment. I congratulate Meta for supporting RATI Foundation in this initiative that will go a long way in addressing online safety concerns of children and young adults.”
Over the years, Meta has invested significantly to ensure online safety of children on its platforms. It introduced a Child Safety Hub on Facebook which is designed to support parents, caregivers and educators with policies, resources and tools on safety and well-being of youth online. Available in 13 Indian languages, the hub centralizes and expands upon Meta’s expert-informed, research-based programs in the areas of online safety, digital literacy, well-being, and bullying prevention. A Parents’ Guide available in English and 7 Indian languages was launched on Instagram. The Guide is aimed at helping young people be safe, by informing parents about all the safety features that exist on the platform.
Meta continues to develop industry leading tools to help keep young people safe on their platforms. These include warnings and safety notices across the Meta platforms to educate people on who they’re engaging with. These notices are designed to discourage inappropriate interactions with children and to limit the potential for grooming to occur via Messenger and Instagram. Also, the company has developed new technology that makes it more difficult for adults to find and follow teens.