Young People at Risk Online, Says UNICEF

Young People at Risk Online, Says UNICEF Young People at Risk Online, Says UNICEF

Eight out of ten 18-year-olds believe young people are in danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online, and more than five out of 10 think friends participate in risky behaviors while using the internet, says a  new UNICEF study.

Titled "Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online," it is based on an international opinion poll of more than 10,000 18-year-olds from 25 countries, revealing young people's perspectives on the risks they face growing up in an increasingly connected world, NBC News  reported.

UNICEF says globally, one in three internet users is a child.

The new report finds that adolescents appear confident with their own ability to stay safe, with nearly 90% of interviewees believing they can avoid online dangers.

Approximately six out of ten said meeting new people online is either somewhat or very important to them, but only 36% strongly believe they can tell when people are lying about who they are online.

Among girls, 67% strongly agreed they would be worried if they received sexual comments over the internet, compared to 47% of boys.

  Vulnerable Across the Board

When online threats do occur, more adolescents turn to friends than parents or teachers, but less than half strongly agree they know how to help a friend facing an online risk.

Clara Sommarin, a child protection specialist at UNICEF, says, "Earlier we thought that most of the children are vulnerable to online violence and abuse in high income countries because they perhaps have a laptop or a smartphone, but we know now that this is actually not true, and that children in very low resource settings and communities are equally vulnerable."

"The findings show just how real the risk of online abuse is for girls and boys,” said UNICEF associate director of child protection, Cornelius Williams.

"Although online violence and exploitation is a reality in the lives of children worldwide, many children do not have the necessary knowledge or resources to sufficiently protect themselves. Digital safety should be included in curricula and parents need to talk to their children about staying safe online and what to do if they or a friend find themselves in trouble.”

Children are at risk of cyber bullying, sextortion – in which victims are blackmailed by threatening to post explicit images of them on the internet – and online sexual abuse.

UNICEF said governments should coordinate responses between law enforcement, schools and internet providers to better protect children from online exploitation.

The study also found that most teenagers thought meeting new people online was either somewhat or very important to them, and 36% strongly believed they could tell when people were lying online about their identity. More than 80% said they believed they could deal with sexual comments on the web.