Dhaka, 5 February 2019 – UNICEF today warned of the dangers posed by online violence, cyberbullying and digital harassment for the 32 per cent children aged 10 to 17 years old who are online in Bangladesh and called for concerted action to tackle and prevent violence against children and young people online.
The call, made on Safer Internet Day, comes following a recent UNICEF poll of young people, which received more than 1 million responses over five weeks from more than 160 countries, and suggestions from a series of student-led #ENDviolence Youth Talks held around the world.
A recent study titled, Online Safety of Children in Bangladesh, commissioned by UNICEF Bangladesh, surveyed 1281 school-going children (aged 10 to 17) from school, college, Madrasah steams of education in Bangladesh who use internet.
Among other forms of cyber crime, the study also explored exposure to religious provocation, some 10 per cent of the children reported facing religiously provocative content. Boys and older children (aged 16 to 17) have been exposed to such provocative content more than other groups of children.
“We’ve heard from children and young people from Bangladesh and around the world and what they are saying is clear: The Internet has become a kindness desert,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Bangladesh Representative “That’s why this Safer Internet Day, UNICEF is following young people’s lead and inviting everyone to be kind online, and calling for greater action to make the Internet a safer place for everyone, especially children.”
According to the UNICEF Bangladesh study, about 25 per cent of the children (aged 10-17) started to access the digital world below the age of 11. Besides, a large majority (63%) of the children use their own room as the primary internet usage point. This indicates the prevalence of “bedroom culture” which allows less supervised internet use.
In Bangladesh, boys (63%) are ahead of girls (48%) in terms of high frequency online access and use. Chatting online and watching video are the two most frequent internet activities with 33 per cent chatting online and 30 per cent watching video daily. In the study, it surfaced that a staggering 70 per cent of the boys and 44 per cent girls admitted to befriending unknown people online, while a section of the respondents even admitted to meeting the unknown online ‘friends’ in person risking their safety.
With the sky-rocketing growth of internet population in Bangladesh, which witnessed 800 times growth since the year 2000, the online population in Bangladesh is getting younger with children as young as 11 accessing and using the internet daily. While older children may be more exposed to cyberbullying than younger ones, children are not immune from harmful content, sexual exploitation and abuse, and cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can cause profound harm as it can quickly reach a wide audience, and can remain accessible online indefinitely, virtually ‘following’ its victims online for life. Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and skip school than other students. They also are more likely to receive poor grades and experience low self-esteem and health problems. In extreme situations, cyberbullying has even led to suicide.
“Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the creation of the World Wide Web, it is time for governments, families, academia and, critically, the private sector to put children and young people at the centre of digital policies," said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Bangladesh Representative. “By protecting them from the worst the Internet has to offer and expanding access to its best, we can each help tip the balance for good.”
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.bd