Safer Internet Day: Unicef calls for urgent measures to protect kids online
Every half a second, a child goes online for the first time, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is urging the world to implement measures to protect them from “the perils of the digital world.”
The Unicef, in a statement on Wednesday, noted that more than 175,000 children go online for the first time each day.
In a study conducted in 2017, the Unicef found that while one in three internet users is a child, but “too little is done” to safeguard the trail of information children’s online activities create, and to increase their access to safe and quality online content.
“Every day, thousands of children are going online for the first time, which opens them up to a flood of dangers we are just coming to appreciate, let alone address,” said Laurence Chandy, Unicef Director of Data, Research and Policy.
Despite the “wealth of benefits and opportunities” of the digital world, Chandy said it may expose children to harmful content such as sexual exploitation and abuse, cyberbullying, and misuse of their private information.
“While governments and the private sector have made some progress in formulating policies and approaches to eliminate the most egregious online risks, more effort must be made to fully understand and protect children’s online lives,” he said.
While it made clear that the obligation to protect children in the internet was on everyone, the Unicef noted the responsibility “has not been taken seriously enough” by the private sector.
“The power and influence of the private sector should be leveraged to advance industry-wide ethical standards on data and privacy, as well as other practices that benefit and protect children online,” Chandy said.
The Unicef then urged the world to put children at the center of digital policy by coordinating a global, regional and national response to conceal illegal trafficking and other online child sexual abuse online.
The organization also urged the private sector and government to commit to protect and not misuse children’s data collected online. The latter was also urged to teach children how to protect themselves from threats to their own privacy.
Children must also be taught how to keep themselves informed, engaged and safe online through bolstered digital literacy from primary school to high school, the Unicef added.
“In the time it takes to click on a link, a child somewhere begins creating a digital trail which those not necessarily considering the child’s best interest can follow and potentially exploit,” Chandy said.
“As younger and younger children join the Internet, the need to have a serious discussion about how to keep them safe online and secure their digital footprint becomes increasingly urgent,” he added. /jpv
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