UNICEF: More than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day

On 11 March 2016, Jan, 16, (background) strums a guitar at her home in the Central Visayas city of Cebu, Philippines while her two brothers look at an iPad. Like most adolescents, she tolerates her siblings, spends time with friends, and a lot of time on the Internet. Social media is a huge influence in children’s lives and being constantly connected to the Internet creates many risks, including online sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. After the loss of her grandfather, together with the pressures of adolescent life, Jan battled depression, and was a victim of cyber-bullying. Like many adolescents, she turned to the Internet for help. She saw a social media post about ‘cutting,’ a form of self-injury, and how the post described it as being an effective way to deal with pain and she tried it. She sought help from a UNICEF-supported programme on CyberSafety providing guidance and training in social media and she now works with UNICEF to help educate her peers about online safety.

Worldwide, children make up one-third of all Internet users. With the rapid expansion of information and communication technologies, protecting children online is an urgent global priority. Among Filipino youth, more than half regularly use the Internet on own devices with easy and unrestricted online access. The lack of awareness of online safety, along with children’s natural inquisitiveness, adolescent sexual curiosity and susceptibility to peer influence, makes children vulnerable to online violence, sexual abuse and exploitation. This can manifest itself in cyberbullying, sexual solicitation online, and victimization through child sexual abuse material and live stream child sexual abuse.  Online sexual abuse and exploitation may involve both contact and non-contact offenses, and often involves subtle forms of manipulation in which a child is coerced into these situations without being able to fully comprehend what is happening to them or give informed consent.  While poverty in the Philippines, and a culture of silence in relation to child sexual abuse, are widely recognised as major underlying factors, the chronic lack of employment and desperation to survive is often used as a justification when families facilitate the exploitation of children. In 2015, the Philippines is reported to be among the top 10 countries worldwide where online child sexual exploitation is prevalent, involving mostly boys and girls age 10-14. Nearly half of Filipino children experience violence on the Internet and the number of children who are victims of abuse of live streaming for payment is estimated in the tens of thousands, with offenders sexually exploiting children using webcams, chat rooms and social media. Live streaming of child sexual abuse is believed by many to be a relatively easy way of making money without consequences. Many people also fail to fully comprehend the illegality involved. The rise of these forms of exploitation has prompted the Philippine government to enact laws and implement programmes to protect children from online sexual exploitation, and garnered  international law enforcement collaboration and support. UNICEF is targeting children in schools and their parents by instituting CyberSafety lesson plans and is working together with the Government, the Child Protection Network, the Department of Justice and NGOs in improving the investigation and prosecution of cases and providing care and support services for child victims of online sexual exploitation. For vulnerable girls living in situations of poverty, life skills training with a particular focus on sexual education alongside measures to strengthen their economic capabilities, are being provided, in addition to public awareness-raising; strengthening parent-child relationships and empowering parents and teachers into becoming aware of their children’s online activities.This photographic documentation was produced with the support of the WeProtect Global Allliance.

press release

 

More than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day

 

On Safer Internet Day, UNICEF calls for urgent action to protect children and their digital footprint

 

NEW YORK/BISHKEK, 6 February 2018 – More than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day – a new child every half second – UNICEF said today on the eve of Safer Internet Day, observed globally on 7 February. Digital access exposes these children to a wealth of opportunities, but also to a host of risks, including access to harmful content, cyberbullying, and misuse of their private information.

"Every day, thousands of children are going online for the first time, which opens them up to a flood of dangers we are just coming to appreciate, let alone address,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy. “While governments and the private sector have made some progress in formulating policies to eliminate the most egregious online risks, more effort must be made to fully understand and protect children’s online lives.”

In Kyrgyzstan, 60 percent of adolescents are confident with their own ability to stay safe while using the internet according to the M-report survey conducted by the National Institute for Strategic Studies and UNICEF last year. Still given all the risks, there is an urgent need to better protect children’s and adolescents’ online lives and increase their access to safe ad quality online content.  

“In Kyrgyzstan, UNICEF has been supporting the Government in developing capacity of teachers, law enforcement professionals and parents on online safety,” said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan. “UNICEF is calling for cooperation among government, civil society, and, most significantly, the private sector to put children at the center of digital policy,” she added.

UNICEF suggests the below five actions to put children at the center of digital policy by:

1.    Coordinating national response. We must deepen collaboration between policy makers, law enforcement and the technology industry to embed principles of safety and to work together to find solutions to keep pace with digital technology that can enable and conceal illegal trafficking and other online child sexual abuse. 

2.    Safeguarding children’s privacy. We need a much greater commitment by the private sector and government to protect and not misuse children’s data and to respect its encryption; the full application of international standards in collecting and using data about children online; and to teach children how to protect themselves from threats to their own privacy.

3.    Empowering children online through more equitable access and digital literacy. Children must be taught how to keep themselves informed, engaged and safe online, including through greater collaboration between governments and technologists to develop ICT platforms and curricula from primary school through high school; supporting online libraries and expanding the capacity of public libraries to teach digital skills; investing in teacher training in digital technology; teaching children how to recognize and protect themselves from online dangers and misinformation; and making digital citizenship a core component of digital literacy instruction.

4.    Leveraging the unique role of the private sector. There is an urgent need for the establishment and enforcement of industry wide ethical standards on data and privacy that protect and benefit children online, including ethical product development and marketing that mitigates risks to children. 

5.    Investing in better evidence about access, opportunities and risks for children online. We need better evidence about children’s access and activities online, so we can leverage this evidence for regulatory frameworks and policies that recognize the distinct needs and rights of children; strengthen coordination and knowledge sharing at the global level to address the challenges of a digital world; deepen collaboration with children’s organizations; and engage more systematically with policymakers and lawmakers.

“As younger and younger children join the Internet, the need to have a serious discussion about how to keep them safe online and secure their digital footprint becomes increasingly urgent,” said Yukie Mokuo.

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About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work in Kyrgyzstan visit: https://www.unicef.org/kyrgyzstan and follow us on Facebook, Instagram и Twitter .

For more information, please contact: 

Kurtis Cooper, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 476 1435, kacooper@unicef.org

Veronika Vashchenko, UNICEF Bishkek, Tel: + 996 777 919 142, vvashchenko@unicef.org