Adolescent safety and protection

Every seven minutes, an adolescent is killed by an act of violence.

A young woman looks out the window of her home in Uganda.
UNICEF/UN0297712/Adriko

For children entering adolescence, new experiences bring new risks. Violence, abuse and exploitation can take different forms as children age.

In addition to bullying and extreme discipline, adolescents may face gender-based violence, intimate partner violence and violence from gangs or armed groups.

Adolescents who grow up in neglectful homes, belong to minority groups, or identify as LQBTQI, or those with disabilities, are especially vulnerable to violence and abuse.

 


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What’s more, digital connectivity creates new ways for bullies, abusers and exploiters to target others.

For adolescents in humanitarian settings, risks mount. Conflict and disaster may force them onto risky migration routes. They may be killed or maimed, detained, forced to take on hazardous work, subjected to sexual violence or exploitation, or trafficked.

Harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation also threaten girls’ health and well-being, with consequences that last a lifetime. For boys, hazardous child labour and recruitment by armed groups pose significant dangers.

To make matters worse, adolescents who come into contact with justice systems are often denied the protection to which, as children, they had the right. Especially when detained with adults, they are vulnerable to even more violence and abuse.

Key facts

UNICEF’s work to keep adolescents safe and supported

Adolescents need support and protection in their homes, at school, in their social environments and online.

To protect their rights and help them reach their full potential, UNICEF meets adolescents where they are – not only in their communities, but in justice and social welfare systems too.

Our work:

  • Supports parenting programmes to promote positive interactions and reduce violence at home.
  • Bolsters social protection programmes to enhance families’ economic stability, reducing pressures that can lead to violence or force adolescents into exploitative labour.
  • Mobilizes communities to transform social norms that perpetuate violence, discrimination and harmful practices – while fostering new ones that promote agency, gender equality and non-violence.
  • Builds the capacity of social welfare systems and promotes investments in the child protection workforce.
  • Advocates for adolescent-friendly justice systems and promotes alternatives to detention, with a focus on rehabilitation.
  • Supports programmes to help adolescents learn life skills, build confidence and advocate for their rights.
  • Builds referral networks, supports community outreach, and promotes open dialogues in schools and other environments, including digital ones, to make these spaces safer.
  • Strengthens data systems and builds the capacity of frontline workers to identify and mitigate the risks adolescents face, especially in emergencies.
  • Provides reintegration services for survivors of sexual violence and recruitment into armed forces.
  • Supports adolescents as change agents to influence social norms and take action to protect children’s and adolescents’ rights.
Kiran Bauri riding a bike
UNICEF/UN0276231/Boro
Kiran Bauri, 18, advocates for ending child marriage and for a girl's right to education in her community in India.

Resources

Adolescents and Violence

From UNICEF’s #EndViolence campaign, find facts and figures on violence against adolescents.


A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents

Read this overview of the latest global data on violence against children and adolescents.


Child Marriage: Latest Trends and Future Prospects

Explore the latest global data on child marriage, with projections to 2030.


UNICEF Data: Female Genital Mutilation

Explore the latest global data on female genital mutilation, from UNICEF global databases.


UNICEF Data: Child Labour

Explore the latest global data on child labour, from UNICEF global databases.


Committee on the Rights of the Child: Comment on Adolescent Rights

Read guidance for States on measures to promote comprehensive adolescent development consistent with the realization of adolescents’ rights, from the Committee on the Rights of the Child.


Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Contexts

Find practical guidance and tools for humanitarian actors and communities to prevent and mitigate gender-based violence in all stages of humanitarian response.


Child Recruitment and Use

Read this overview from the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.