(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Responding to the need to train the youth on safe ways to use internet, Airtel and World Vision Lanka are holding a series of online safety awareness drives for school teachers and principals in the Batticaloa District. Under this initiative, over 6,000 O/Level and A-Level students in the region will be reached through teacher training programmes. Airtel, World Vision Lanka andGrassrooted will now aim to spur advocacy by introducing visual tools at schools to make an ongoing difference.

With online penetration amongst children growing exponentially, its negative effects also are scaling up. According to Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT), the number of social media incidences—including suicide attempts due to cyber exploitation, bullying and violence among the student population—had grown by 300% from 2011 to 2017. Some of them have ended with children taking the extreme step of ending their lives.

By empowering students to build a positive digital footprint, Airtel is allowing students to control their actions online and be a positive influence on others. The telco believes that teachers need additional training to help students be kind and positive citizens online just as they do in the physical world.

The leading internet service provider is also encouraging a safe environment for youths to report cases of cyberbullying and other forms of online abuse within their institutions; and to seek out support through existing local law enforcement and non-government entities.

Jinesh Hegde, CEO/ MD at Bharti Airtel Lanka said: “We want students to be educated, empowered, and engaged in changing the online environment for the better. It’s clear that the internet is having a positive impact on how young people learn, interact with each other and express themselves. We hope to use this unique opportunity to collectively promote respect and empathy online, inspire young people to harness their enthusiasm, creativity and support them to build positive online experiences for everyone.”

Commenting on the programme, Dr. DhananSenathirajah, National Director of World Vision Lanka stated,“With the internet constantly evolving, we believe that adolescents must stay abreast of all the dangers that threaten them. Whether it’s exposure to strangers on gaming systems, on social networking sites, or on mobile devices, they need to know these dangers and what actions to take in order to prevent them. We hope that this project will drive home a constant theme for students to take into consideration that everything they post on the Internet is both public and permanent. They will need to learn ways to neutralise the dangers the internet can sometimes pose.”

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