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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Child protection and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)

© UNICEF/BANA2014-00368/Mawa
Anamika Chakma, 10, is helped by her teacher to learn how to use a computer at Golachhari Government Primary School in Golachhari village, Rangamati on 2 February 2014.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) – especially internet and mobile technologies – are increasingly becoming an integral part of children’s lives. More and more children rely on them to learn, engage, participate, play, work and socialise. ICTs are also proving to be useful in children’s protection. They can be used to seek information on services, collect, document and share data, and report abuse. Furthermore, ICTs can have an enormous potential to overcome many of the challenges vulnerable children face in the offline world.  For instance, for children with disabilities ICTs can serve as valuable tools for accessing services and offer opportunities for social inclusion, networking and participation.

The openness of the internet coupled with the digital divide between children, parents, caregivers and teachers can, however, leave children exposed to online harm, which can negatively impact their personal development and well-being. This is especially the case in low and middle-income countries where gaps in overall child protection tend to be greater, and digital literacy levels among parents and caregivers lower. Examples of potential risks include exposure to disturbing or potentially harmful content such as violent images, cyberbullying, sexual solicitation (‘online grooming’), circulation of child sexual abuse materials and live stream abuse. It is therefore important to strike a balance between opportunities and risks that the ICTs bring and to better understand what makes some children particularly vulnerable to risk of harm, so that protective strategies can be effectively targeted.

UNICEF is increasingly exploring how ICTs can be used in child protection programming such as the facilitation of birth registration, rapid family tracing and case management. UNICEF is also engaged in advocacy for the criminalization of child sexual abuse materials and online grooming of children; the strengthening of institutional capacities to implement legislation and policies related to investigation and prosecution of cases involving online sexual abuse/exploitation; supporting the establishment of comprehensive services for children abused/exploited through the internet and mobile phones; raising awareness and building capacities of children, teachers and caregivers on the risks of ICTs and protective measures and supporting research projects to enhance the understanding of children’s use of ICTs and appropriate responses to violence, exploitation and abuse facilitated through ICTs.



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