The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for a safe digital world for children while canvassing for the need to increase online access to benefit the most disadvantaged ones.
The United Nations (UN) program headquartered in New York City that provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries, said 1 in 3 internet users worldwide is a child.
“Despite children’s massive online presence, too little is done to protect them from the perils of the digital world and to increase their access to safe online content,” UNICEF said in its annual flagship report released on Monday.
The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a digital world presents UNICEF’s first comprehensive look at the different ways digital technology is affecting children’s lives and life chances, identifying dangers as well as opportunities.
It argues that governments and the 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.
“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. These 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 cyberbullying.
The ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, the report notes, has made online access for many children less supervised – and potentially more dangerous.