‘Unite for Children. Unite for Hong Kong.’ Child Rights Advocacy Project 2012 Supporting the first-ever effective social media youth intervention project Ratio of young females willing to talk about sex or love problems reaches 90%

 

‘Unite for Children. Unite for Hong Kong.’ Child Rights Advocacy Project 2012 Supporting the first-ever effective social media youth intervention project Ratio of young females willing to talk about sex or love problems reaches 90%

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HONG KONG, 12 August 2012—On the International Youth Day, Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF HK) announced the results of ‘Unite for Children. Unite for Hong Kong.’ Child Rights Advocacy Project 2012, partnering with charitable or non-governmental organisations that share the same vision to protect the rights of children, especially for those who have long been neglected and marginalised. The three selected organisations including Community Drug Advisory Council, Playright Children’s Play Association and Youth Outreach will each receive HK$500,000 from UNICEF HK to implement the child rights related projects. Among them, the “All-Night Net Walker” project by Youth Outreach is the first-ever youth intervention project utilising social media such as WhatsApp and Line to reach youths at risk in Hong Kong. Data shows the new approach is more effective compared with traditional intervention approaches that young females are more responsive, for example, 90% of youths who talk about their sexual or love affairs problems are female; 75% of youths who revealed that they have encountered drug abuse problem are female as well.

‘Unite for Children. Unite for Hong Kong.’ Child Rights Advocacy Project was launched in 2011 and this year is the second year of the trial run. UNICEF HK invites local NGOs which share the same vision to work together to protect the rights of Hong Kong children, particularly to ethnic minority children, children under the threat of drug abuse and physical abuse, and all those hard to reach or marginalised. It was an honour to have Mr Kenneth Chen, former Under Secretary for Education of HKSARG, Ms Christine Fang, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and Professor Nelson Chow, Department of Social Work and Social Administration of the University of Hong Kong to be the independent judges to screen the proposals.

Ms Judy Chen, Chairman of UNICEF HK acknowledged the three judges for their professional guidance and advice in selecting projects to be sponsored. Among the 14 proposals submitted by different organisations, UNICEF HK has finally selected Community Drug Advisory Council, Playright Children’s Play Association and Youth Outreach to support and partner with for the betterment of children. “Today is ’International Youth Day’. Hallmarked by the theme of “Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth”, a global call is urged by the United Nations General Assembly to act to develop and engage in partnerships with and for youth. The three selected organisations not only provide outstanding services for youths, but also are role models of building up close partnerships with youths in the community,” said Ms Chen.

“Project P.E.A.C.E.: Pilot Drug and Sex Education for Children” proposed by Community Drug Advisory Council, aims to arouse ethnic minority children and parents’ awareness on drugs and sex to tackle drug abuse and early mature youth, targeting to reach over 2,000 people. “Playright UNICEF Inclusive Play 2012” proposed by Playright Children’s Play Association aims at realising the right to play for disabled children through educating public and working with policymakers, targeting around 8,500 people. “All-Night Net Walker” by Youth Outreach, aims at protecting children suffering from abuse or being neglected, targeting 4,300 people. Same as last year, UNICEF HK will allocate HK$500,000 to each organisation to support and further develop the child rights projects in the coming year.

As Internet, mobile phones and other technologies are becoming a familiar presence, Ms Leonie Ki, Vice Chairman and Chairman of Advocacy and Public Relations Committee, UNICEF HK stated the concern about child safety online. “The population of people surfing the internet worldwide has escalated from less than 20% in 2006 to 35% in 2011. Children and youths may easily be exposed to dangers when going online.” She then mentioned five major online risks among children worldwide, including low awareness of privacy, uploading confidential information onto the internet and sexual exploitation online etc. She continued, “in 2010, 16,700 posts of children’s sexual abuse were exposed online. It is estimated millions of these photos have been uploaded online, which can cause negative consequences on thousands of children…We have to be alert enough to online child safety. We have to provide immediate intervention and assistance to children in danger to avoid crimes and tragedies.”

With UNICEF HK’s support, Youth Outreach has upgraded its “All-Night Net Walker” programme, reaching youths at high risk via social media when more children and youths use smartphones and other mobile devices to surf the internet. The programme also includes “Internet Ambassadors”, who used to be triad members or drugs abusers to reach youths at high risk, enhancing the effectiveness of face-to-face intervention and outreach services.

Mr Ted Tam, Assistant Executive Director of Youth Outreach said, “We have launched the “All-Night Net Walker” since 2009 but many intervention approaches have not been up to date. With UNICEF HK’s support, we are able to further develop the project so that it can better reach youths by connecting them via the mobile devices and smartphones that youths are actually using. Youths are more willing to reveal themselves via social media and through building close relationship with youths, especially female youths at high risk, social workers can provide immediate intervention and referral, saving them from sexual assaults, internet addiction, drug abuse or becoming triad members.”

Through the 2009/2010 and 2011/2012 “All-Night Net Walker” programme, Youth Outreach has reached nearly 3,500 youths via communication software, blogs, email, chat rooms and forums etc. Male and female youths account for 51% and 49% respectively. Yet young females are less willing to share their private issues. Only half of those willing to share their sexual/love affairs problems were young females, while only 46% of those willing to reveal their problems of drug abuse were young females.

Compared with the above youth intervention approach, young females are far more responsive via social media, especially WhatsApp. From April to July 2012, Youth Outreach reached 680 youths via WhatsApp, of which 370 (54%) were female. Among those who were willing to share their sexual/love affairs, 65 were females, accounting for 71% of total cases and almost 20% of the reached females. For those who were willing to talk about drug abuse, 21 were female, accounting for 64% of total cases and 6% of the reached females.

During June and July 2012 and with the support of UNICEF HK, Youth Outreach’s “All-Night Net Walker” reached 438 youths via WhatsApp (64%), chat rooms (35%), online forums (0.7%) and other smartphone apps (0.7%). It is found that young females account for almost 65%. The ratio of young females who were willing to share their sexual/love affairs reaches 89%, that is 48 young females and accounting for almost 20% in total. Among those willing to share their problems of drug abuse, 74% were young females, meaning 14 in actual number which accounts for 0.5% of the total reached female.

Ms Lee Wai-ki, Social Work Supervisor of The Hang Out, Youth Outreach said, “We will meet the youths before we chat via WhatsApp. Because of the close relationship, young females are more willing to keep in touch with us. WhatsApp is a one-to-one platform with high privacy, providing young females a more comfortable way to express feelings.” She continued, “Recently, a young female sought help from us because of her friend’s pregnancy, while a minor girl told us she was working at a nightclub.”

‘Unite for Children. Unite for Hong Kong.’ is a Child Rights Advocacy Project designed to realise and promote child rights in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF hopes to raise overall awareness of child rights through this project. We hope to work with the community to directly benefit local children and make Hong Kong more child-friendly.

 

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