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:
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
Three in four children have seen images on the Internet that disturbed them
Internet paedophiles are becoming more adept in using counter-intelligence techniques to prevent themselves from being traced
Parents may be unaware of their childrens 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 childrens online activity, 34% of children say their parents havent.
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 isnt 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.
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.
In the UK, 57% of 9-19 year olds say theyve viewed online pornography, 46% say theyve given out information they shouldnt and 33% say theyve been bullied online.
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.
If MySpace was a country, it would be the 8th largest in the world! 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.
Topics for discussion
1. The dangers facing children on the Internet today
The Internet and new ICTs are constantly changing the way we live and it is important to be aware of new technologies and the impact they have on children and young people.
- Save The Children Dieter Carstensen, Project Coordinator
- Child Helpline International Johan Martens, Advocacy Officer and Roy John Mathunni, Programme Manager, Asia Pacific
2. Ease of access: current, new and emerging ICTs
Despite the proliferation of online safety tools, sites and strategies, many critics argue that children and young people are still at risk due to the inefficiency of filters used to block offensive material online.
- Microsoft Julie Inman Grant, Director of Internet Safety and Security, Microsoft Asia Pacific
- eNASCO John Carr, Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety
3. Recommendations and Key Activities
Better regulation in the form of voluntary codes of practice which industry, educators, governments and other organizations will agree on are essential. Protection and policy involving collaboration and multi-sector cooperation in terms of protecting children online from being exploited. Agreement of an integrated approach to develop an e-strategy for children involving partnerships and genuine cooperation between governments, law enforcement, industry, NGOs, educators and organizations. Establishment of a proactive method to share best practices on a global platform.
- GSMA Natasha Jackson, Head of Content Policy, Director Mobile Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Content
- Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) - Jim Gamble, Chief Executive Officer