A recent UNICEF/Ipsos global poll shows that eight out of ten 18-year-olds believe that young people are in danger of being victims of online sexual abuse or being taken advantage of. The study also adds that more than five out of 10 think friends participate in risky behaviours while using the internet as well.
Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online is based on an international opinion poll of more than 10,000 18-year-olds from 25 countries, revealing young people’s perspectives on the risks they face growing up in an increasingly connected world.
“The internet and mobile phones have revolutionised young people’s access to information, but the poll findings show just how real the risk of online abuse is for girls and boys,” said UNICEF’s Associate Director of Child Protection, Cornelius Williams.
“Globally, one in three internet users is a child. Today’s findings provide important insights from young people themselves. UNICEF aims to amplify adolescents’ voices to help address online violence, exploitation and abuse, and make sure that children can take full advantage of the benefits the internet and mobile phones offer.”
The new report finds that adolescents appear confident with their own ability to stay safe, with nearly 90 per cent of interviewees believing they can avoid online dangers. Approximately six out of 10 said meeting new people online is either somewhat or very important to them, but only 36 per cent strongly believe they can tell when people are lying about who they are online.
More than two-thirds of girls, 67 per cent strongly agree they would be worried if they received sexual comments or requests over the internet, in comparison to 47 per cent of boys. When online threats do occur, more adolescents turn to friends than parents or teachers, but less than half strongly agree they know how to help a friend facing an online risk, according to the study.
To engage children and adolescents in ending violence online, UNICEF is launching #ReplyforAll, which is part of its global End Violence Against Children initiative. #ReplyforAll puts adolescents’ front and centre as messengers and advocates to keep themselves safe online. Children and adolescents will be asked to give their advice on the best ways to respond to online violence or risks and to raise awareness among friends through social media. This work has been supported by the WePROTECT Global Alliance, which is dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of children online through national and global action.
UNICEF, together with the WePROTECT Global Alliance, is calling on national governments to establish coordinated responses between criminal justice systems including law enforcement, and child welfare, education, health and the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sectors, as well as civil society, to better protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation.