Unicef report calls for safer ‘Digital World’ for children

Governments, the digital technology sector and telecom industries globally must make expanding access to the internet and protecting children online a priority, says the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in the latest version of their annual flagship global report The State of the World’s Children (SOWC) 2017: Children in a digital world.

The report was being debated at a panel discussion organised by Unicef in Islamabad.

According to the report, one in three internet users worldwide is a child and that too little is being done to protect them from the perils of the digital world and to increase their access to safe online content. On the other hand, 346 million youth (aged 15-24) around the world are not online.

“Where we want to turn this digital gap into a digital bridge, we also want to ensure that online presence for children and youth is safe by all means,” said Melanie Galvin, chief of Nutrition for Unicef in Pakistan.

“Unicef views it as an inequity that millions of children and youth in Pakistan and around the world are not connected to the internet which reduces their ability to participate in an increasingly digital economy.

“In a country like Pakistan, progress for every child is much more dependent on safe, inclusive and widely accessible online opportunities,” said Melanie Galvin. “To understand that the digital is not a need but an essential part of growing up in this world is the only way forward,” she added.

The report goes beyond everyday differences that exist in the world when it comes to children and youth online or disconnected. It also questions how the digital networks like the Dark Web and cryptocurrencies are enabling the worst forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking and ‘made to order’ online child sexual abuse.

The SOWC 2017 presents current data and analysis about children’s online usage and the impact of digital technology on children’s well-being, exploring growing debates about digital “addiction” and the possible effect of screen time on brain development.

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