Abuja – The UNICEF annual flagship report released today revealed that too little is done to protect children from the perils of the digital world and to increase their access to safe online content.
Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, said, “For better and for worse, digital technology is now an irreversible fact of our lives, n”In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harms while maximising the benefits of the Internet for every child.”
A press statement made available to newsmen in Abuja on “the State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a digital world,” by Eva Hinds, UNICEF Communication Specialist, said the report presents UNICEF’s first comprehensive look at the different ways digital technology was affecting children’s lives and life chances, identifying dangers as well as opportunities.
He said in the report, that there was children’s massive online presence, 1 in 3 Internet users worldwide is a child, stating that governments and private sector have not kept up with the pace of change, exposing children to new risks and harms and leaving millions of the most disadvantaged children behind.
The report explores the benefits digital technology can offer the most disadvantaged children, including those growing up in poverty or affected by humanitarian emergencies.
They include increasing their access to information, building skills for the digital workplace, and giving them a platform to connect and communicate their views.
But the report shows that millions of children are missing out. Around one third of the world’s youth 346 million are not online, exacerbating inequities and reducing children’s ability to participate in an increasingly digital economy.
The report also examines how the Internet increases children’s vulnerability to risks and harms, including misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyber-bullying.
The ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, the report noted, has made online access for many children less supervised and potentially more dangerous.
And digital networks like the Dark Web and crypt ocurrencies are enabling the worst forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking and ‘made to order’ online child sexual abuse.
The report presents current data and analysis about children’s online usage and the impact of digital technology on children’s wellbeing, exploring growing debates about digital “addiction” and the possible effect of screen time on brain development.
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Additional facts from the report include, “Young people are the most connected age group Worldwide, 71 per cent are online compared with 48 per cent of the total population; African youth are the least connected, with around 3 out of 5 youth offline, compared to just 1 in 25 in Europe; Approximately 56 per cent of all websites are in English and many children cannot find content they understand or that is culturally relevant; and more than nine in 10 child sexual abuse URLs identified globally are hosted in five countries – Canada, France, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the United States.”
The report said, “Only collective action by governments, the private sector, children’s organisations, academia, families and children themselves can help level the digital playing field and make the Internet safer and more accessible for children.”
Practical recommendations to help guide more effective policymaking and more responsible business practices to benefit children include providing all children with affordable access to high-quality online resources; protecting children from harm online – including abuse, exploitation, trafficking, cyber-bullying and exposure to unsuitable materials; safeguard children’s privacy and identities online.
Hey also include teaching digital literacy to keep children informed, engage them on safe online; leveraging the power of the private sector to advance ethical standards and practices that protect and benefit children online; and put children at the centre of digital policy.
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Author: Toyin Adebayo