One in three Internet users in the world is a child, yet too little is done to protect them, UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report released on Monday said. “For better and for worse, digital technology is now an irreversible fact of our lives. In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harms while maximizing the benefits of the internet for every child, “ said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
The report explores the benefits digital technology can offer the most disadvantaged children, including those growing up in poverty or affected by humanitarian emergencies.
It also points out that 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.
It examines how the Internet increases children’s vulnerability, including misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyberbullying.
The ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, the report notes, has made online access for many children less supervised and potentially more dangerous. Digital networks like the Dark Web and cryptocurrencies are enabling the worst forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking and ‘made to order’ online child sexual abuse.
More than 9 in 10 child sexual abuse URLs identified globally are hosted in five countries — Canada, France, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the United States.
Only collective action — by governments, the private sector, children’s organizations, academia, families and children themselves — can help level the digital playing field and make the internet safer and more accessible for children, the report says.
“Girls and boys in India have the unique opportunity to benefit from the connectivity that the digital world can provide. India is famous as an IT Hub and no matter where they live, every girl or boy should have a digital advantage,” said UNICEF representative in India, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque.
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