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UNICEF: Exploring the social networking lives of young people

NEW YORK/PRETORIA, 12 October 2011 – UNICEF today launched the first in a series of ground-breaking studies, which analyzes the behavior of young people online.

As part of UNICEF’s Digital Citizenship and Safety Project, the series seeks to better understand and address the impact information and communication technologies have on the lifestyle of children and young people in developing countries.

Africa is currently the world’s fastest growing market for mobile communications, which is why UNICEF partnered with MXit, South Africa’s largest social network, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa to conduct an extensive survey on young people’s digital behaviour.

More than 25,000 South African youths took part in the survey on the platform MXit and revealed that:

  • 30 per cent of participants spend most of their time at home chatting on MXit, 68 per cent indicated that they most often talk to family and friends.
  • Around 75 per cent of them talk to strangers at least once a week, while 42 per cent do so every day.
  • Approximately 26 per cent of those had been insulted or experienced some form of ‘cyber-bullying’. Race, location and gender emerged as the most common reasons for insult. 

“Children are very adept at figuring out new technologies. And while they may have technical knowledge, they are not always aware of some of the implications of using the technology. UNICEF is committed to ensuring that young people not only benefit from innovation, but they are safe from anyone seeking to exploit them through these platforms,” said Aida Girma, UNICEF South Africa Representative.

UNICEF will be conducing similar studies in different geographic regions to build up evidence.

In participating countries, the concept of Digital Citizenship is advocated at the local government level through advocacy workshops, seminars and conferences, with the goal to maximize on Information and Communications Technology’s opportunities, while minimizing its risks for children and young people. 


To access the full report, please visit:

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For more information, please contact:
Janine Kandel, UNICEF Media, New York,
Tel + 1 212 326 7684

Kate Pawelczyk, UNICEF Media, South Africa
Tel +27823365565




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