Growing up online has its tremendous possibilities – and its perils. As the boundary between online and offline fades, explore what children face today – and how we can all support them.
Violence against children is not inevitable. For every child, #ENDviolence online.
Lorna was forced to perform sexual acts in front of her neighbour's webcam in the Philippines.
When she was 17, Jessica’s phone was stolen and nude photos posted publicly in her hometown in Brazil.
UNICEF asks young people about growing up online and how they stay safe. Here is their response.
What happens in the online world is a reflection of society at large. Violence, exploitation and abuse children might face in their homes, schools and communities are mirrored by violence they may face online.
Online abuse of children takes many forms. Perpetrators may produce, distribute and consume child sexual abuse material; victimize children through live streaming their sexual abuse; and groom children online for sexual exploitation.
Child sex offenders are fast to adapt the latest technology to perpetrate crimes against children. Building a better Internet means being aware of this abuse, and supporting users who might be at risk.
Online bullying can be swift and cruel, with dire consequences.
Building a better Internet involves getting informed, being kinder, being careful – and supporting one another.
It’s difficult to control what happens to words and images once they are shared. Exercising caution before sharing content is one way to guard against losing control of personal content, but even content that is protected or shared carefully can be leaked or stolen.
Building a better Internet means both protecting oneself by sharing carefully, and protecting others by not sharing what might embarrass or hurt them. It also means thinking about the potential to lose control of content, even before creating it.
The privacy settings on social media platforms can be set to help filter who sees your information, photos and videos. It’s always important to think about what should be shared, and with whom. If privacy settings are not secured, anyone can see this information.
The privacy that we all want to enjoy applies to others, as well. It is not okay to log in to other people’s accounts or to use their phones or profiles without their permission.
Security of the platforms and channels we use is also critical. Insecure systems can allow breaches of privacy.
Building a better Internet means watching what you share, and being mindful of others’ privacy. It also means knowing whether the platforms and channels you use can be trusted to maintain the security of your information.
Freedom of speech flourishes online but comes with responsibilities. It can be difficult to understand the impact of what you say or express online, because the people with whom you are communicating are not in front of you. But words can have a profound and lasting impact on others.
Building a better Internet means being mindful of your own and others’ boundaries – and putting into practice that "with freedom comes responsibility". – Eleanor Roosevelt, politician, diplomat, activist, United States of America
The Internet allows us to reach across so many boundaries – geographic and interpersonal. But a child’s increased access can be met by a perpetrator’s ability to reach her or him, particularly if the access lacks supervision.
The freedom to explore the world anonymously applies to others, as well. And 'anonymity', itself, is misleading. The Internet allows users to interact without disclosing their identities, but what we do online leaves a digital footprint. It is difficult to maintain privacy online.
Building a better Internet means understanding the possibilities and perils of increased access, anonymity – and the sense of anonymity.
The Internet brings opportunities for expression online, but opportunity and risk often go hand in hand.
Children need protecting from online sexual exploitation in an online world that often reflects society at large.
As children’s access to the Internet increases, efforts to better protect them from perils online must keep pace.
Gone are the days when Internet access was restricted to precious few devices, and a few privileged people. Computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, televisions and music players offer many ways to interact on the Internet.
Building a better Internet means being cognizant of all the ways in which people get there, and having a frank discussion about its possibilities and its perils.
The Internet is full of scams, and those who perpetrate them are increasingly sophisticated. Fake job offers, friends in distress abroad, promises of quick money, phishing – the list goes on and on. The potential to succumb to a scam online is great, and it's a peril we all face.
Building a better Internet means trusting your instincts and doing your research. Avoid potentially harmful situations like meeting someone you ‘met’ online alone and in a desolate place and without telling a trusted adult. And make sure to support others in doing the same.
Children and young people
Support one another by sharing information about how to protect each other, and speaking out against online violence.
Parents and caregivers
Talk to your children about online safety, make sure children understand online risks and what to do if they find themselves in trouble.
Learn about the social tools and online platforms children use in your country to better understand the risks children face online and opportunities for their empowerment.
Incorporate information on digital safety into the curriculum and provide school-based counsellors and peer-to-peer support for children who have had negative experiences online.