Our lives online

Use of social media by children & adolescents in East Asia

Three girls on their phone


One in three Internet users is a child and more than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund report State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World. 

Children from all strata of life and backgrounds in East Asia have access to mobile devices and there is little difference in usage between girls and boys. As internet penetration and access to mobile devices grows, access to social media is no longer confined to children in high income families. Social media is now a significant part of children’s lives in East Asia across economic groups.

While social media provides children with unparalleled opportunities to connect, to access and share information, and to access entertainment, it inevitably exposes them to risks and these risks are growing exponentially. Denying access to social media is neither effective nor a realistic strategy to protect children from risk and harm.

Rather, in addition to understanding the risks children face online, we need to understand how children use social media, how they perceive the risks they face and whether and what steps they take to protect themselves from harm. It is also critical to identify the similarities and differences for children online, not only between under-18s in this region and the rest of the world, but also between boys and girls and amongst different groups. These insights are critical to get to interventions that are effectively tailored for children and young people in the region.

This study sought to capture the views and experiences of boys and girls in using social media in East Asia, with a focus on Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It also captures the perspective of groups of children not usually covered in studies of this kind – lower income families, marginalized children, children with disabilities, street children and refugee children.

For special information and summary for Malaysia - download the Executive Summary document. This document is also available in accessible format for text to speech readers.

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Monica Bulger and Patrick Burton
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