The rapid expansion of digital technology and increased access to the Internet has transformed young people’s lives worldwide.
From poor urban areas in East Africa, to rural communities in South America, to isolated islands in the Pacific - children in some of the world’s most disadvantaged and inaccessible communities now have billions of gigabytes of information at their fingertips. Access to social networks and the World Wide Web provide young people with incredible opportunities for education, entertainment, entrepreneurship and innovation.The possibilities seem infinite.But alongside these opportunities are risks.
Perils and Possibilities: Growing up Online provides a glimpse into young people’s opinions and perspectives on the risks they face coming of age in a digital world. Findings are from a recent UNICEF/Ipsos global poll of more than 10,000 18-year-olds in 25 countries, representing worldwide coverage. Over 40 per cent of the young people polled began using the Internet before they were 13-years-old. UNICEF aims to amplify these young people’s voices and help us all better understand a generation growing up online
Protecting children from abuse and exploitation is everybody’s business. UNICEF is urging all governments to establish coordinated responses between criminal justice systems including law enforcement, social service providers as well as education, health and ICT sectors and civil society, to better protect children online. These responses are in line with the Statements of Action that countries, technology companies and international and civil society organizations have signed through the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Online Sexual Exploitation, as well as Sustainable Development Goal 16:2 to end violence against children.
While greater responsibility from governments is key, all decision makers, including those in the ICT sector, parents and teachers, need to listen to young people so that their views can be incorporated into policies, strategies and programmes. Efforts to tackle online sexual abuse and exploitation are more effective when children’s opinions and perspectives are included, and this helps guarantee young people can take full advantage of the benefits the Internet offers.
To engage young people in ending violence online, UNICEF is launching #ReplyforAll, a campaign that puts adolescents front and centre as messengers and advocates to keep themselves safe online. When young people, governments, families, the ICT sector and communities work together, we are more likely to find the best ways to respond to online sexual abuse and exploitation, and send a strong message that confronting and ending violence against children online – indeed anywhere – is all of our business.
(Text taken from the introduction of the report)