Flagship report highlights digital divides and explores current debates about the impact of the internet and social media on children's safety and well-being
Download photos, videos and a copy of the report: http://uni.cf/2j2GvHC
TORONTO and NEW YORK, Dec. 10, 2017 /CNW/ - Despite children's massive online presence – one in three internet users worldwide is a child – 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 today. Canada's children, in particular, are at risk of exposure to child sexual abuse URLs, and oversharing of their private data. But if leveraged correctly, digital technology can be a game changer for children being left behind, connecting them to a world of opportunity and providing them the skills they need to succeed.
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.
"We have to face the future – and the future is online. But we have to face it armed with knowledge of the risks the digital world poses to children," said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. "Once we understand those risks, we can not only protect our kids, but empower them to seize the incredible opportunities that world also brings."
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.
Digital divide exacerbating global inequity
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. And 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.
Canada's children at risk
Canada's children are not exempt from the risks. Ninety-two per cent of all child sexual abuse URLs are hosted in just five countries, one of them being Canada. Meanwhile, 81 per cent of children under age two, in ten high-income countries including Canada, had a digital footprint – meaning in some manner was mentioned or pictured online, and potentially exposed to mass audiences.
According to the latest UNICEF Report Card, Canada ranks 25th out of 41 rich countries in child well-being.
"If we want Canada to be the best place for kids we need to make their well-being a national priority, and that includes looking at how the changing digital landscape is affecting them," said Morley. "There's the good, the bad and the very ugly when it comes to the online world, and we need to make sure Canada's kids are prepared for them all. It starts with listening to kids and letting them be part of the solution."
UNICEF calls for five critical actions
To level the digital playing field for children and make it safer, UNICEF is calling on governments, the digital technology sector and telecom industries to make expanding access to the internet and protecting children online a priority. Only collective action – by governments, the private sector, children's organizations, academia, families and children themselves – can make the digital space more accessible and safer for children, the report says.
"The internet was designed for adults, but it is increasingly used by children and young people – and digital technology increasingly affects their lives and futures," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. "So digital policies, practices and products should better reflect children's needs, children's perspectives and children's voices."
Practical recommendations to help guide more effective policymaking and more responsible business practices to benefit children include:
- Provide all children with affordable access to high-quality online resources.
- Protect children from harm online – including abuse, exploitation, trafficking, cyberbullying and exposure to unsuitable materials.
- Safeguard children's privacy and identities online.
- Teach digital literacy to keep children informed, engaged and safe online.
- Leverage the power of the private sector to advance ethical standards and practices that protect and benefit children online.
- Put children at the centre of digital policy.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in more than 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.
SOURCE UNICEF Canada
For further information: For interviews or more information, please contact: Stefanie Carmichael, UNICEF Canada,416-482-6552 ext. 8866, [email protected]