Child Online Protection

3 December 2008 - A Best Practice Forum on Security in Hyderabad, India

Original Proposal

In the developed world – and increasingly in the developing world too – the Internet is ubiquitous. While this has brought untold benefits, it has also raised new issues, especially concerning the safety of children. Today, a large number of Internet users consist of children who may be exposed to all kinds of negative content online due to lack of controls and filters. According to surveys[1]:

  • Around 90% of teens and young adults use the Internet
  • Over 60% of children and teenagers talk in chat rooms on a daily basis
  • Three in four children online are willing to share personal information about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services
  • One in five children will be targeted by a predator or paedophile each year
  • Police report that 40% of people charged with child pornography sexually abuse children[2] 
  •  Three in four children have seen images on the Internet that disturbed them[3] 
  • Internet paedophiles are becoming more adept in using counter-intelligence techniques to prevent themselves from being traced[4]

Parents may be unaware of their children’s activities on the internet. As surveys indicate, there is a disconcerting communication gap between parents and children.

  • While 92% of parents say they have established rules for their children’s online activity, 34% of children say their parents haven’t[5].
  • While 30% of teenage girls say they had been sexually harassed in a chat room, only 7% tell their parents, fearing that their online access will be limited.

 

The threat isn’t just restricted to any particular country or region: 

  •  In France, 72% of children surf online alone, and while 85% of parents know about parental control software, only 30% have installed it[6].
  •  In Korea, 90% of homes connect to cheap, high-speed broadband, and up to 30% of Koreans under the age of 18 are at risk of Internet addiction, spending two hours a day or more online[7].
  • In the UK, 57% of 9-19 year olds say they’ve viewed online pornography, 46% say they’ve given out information they shouldn’t and 33% say they’ve been bullied online[8].
  • In China, 44% of children said they had been approached online by strangers, and 41% had talked to an online stranger about sex or something that made them feel uncomfortable[9].

 If MySpace was a country, it would be the 8th largest in the world[10]! Individual, local, national and regional initiatives are important and useful, but the online world respects neither boundaries nor borders. A global effort is therefore needed to address what has become a global issue. So while it would never be possible to eliminate the risks completely, drawing together an effective package of policies and practices, education and training, infrastructure and technology, and awareness and communication, could go a long way in reducing the dangers.