Children at increased risk of harm online during global COVID-19 pandemic – UNICEF warns
Tirana, 17April 2020 – Albanian children start using the Internet at an average age of 9.3 years, while the younger generation of girls and boys are more likely to start using it earlier, at 8 years or less- new UNICEF report says. With schools closed and physical distance children and young people more than ever are relying on digital solutions to home schooling and socializing. This leaves them vulnerable to sexual abuse, violence and bullying.
One Click Away: Children’s Experience of Internet Use in Albania report, now available in Albanian languageLink, is released just in time, as we are addressing the side-effects of containment measures because of COVID-19 pandemic and we are witnessing massive increase of online tools and the internet by children. The report gathers the views and experiences of children aged 9 to 18 years in the country and highlight some of the risks that children and young people face online.
Despite the benefits, internet use is not without risks for children. The report notes that 14 per cent of children have had upsetting experiences over the Internet; one in four children reported having had at least one contact online with someone whom they had never met face-to-face before; Children are exposed to sexual content online mostly involuntarily, through pop-ups. At the same time, more than half of children reported seeing sexual content on the Internet because they wanted to. Only a small proportion, mostly the youngest, were upset after seeing sexual content, while the majority were either indifferent or happy about it. Exposure to all forms of online risks increases with age. Also, for the most part, boys are more likely to be exposed to online risks than girls, though girls report being more upset by such experiences.
However, the same can be said about those who were and still are using the Internet to harm our children’s privacy, safety and security. Already we observe from the reliable evidence shared by the international law enforcement agencies and internet watch-dog organizations, that the risks and cases of sexual abuse of children online increased substantially during past months, indicating that sexual predators are particularly active. Therefore, we call for the heightened vigilance of parents, care givers, child welfare workers, teachers and children themselves. Iinternet-enabled devices such as mobile phones, tablets and personal computers, especially when connected to the web from less or unprotected networks, can’t provide sufficient safeguards on their own.
UNICEF together with its partners, Global Partnership to End Violence against children, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), WePROTECT Global Alliance, World Health Organization (WHO), and World Childhood Foundation USA, is releasing a new technical note aimed at urging governments, ICT industries, educators and parents to be alert, take urgent measures to mitigate potential risks, and ensure children’s online experiences are safe and positive during COVID-19.
Using the key findings of the report, One Click Away: Children’s Experience of Internet Use in Albania - UNICEF Albania is already increasing more targeted protective interventions to guarantee children’s wellbeing online, however we also call for your attention to this important matter.
Download the global technical note in Albanian here.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/albania.