The UN has called on member states to keep children safe online by safeguarding their privacy and protecting them from abuse and exposure to unsuitable materials.
UNICEF in a report released on Monday, specifically called for children to be put at the centre of digital policy, to expand young people’s access to the internet.
According to UNICEF, young people aged 15 to 24 are the most connected age group globally, with 71 per cent online compared to 48 per cent of the total population.
“The internet was designed for adults, but it is increasingly used by children and young people, and digital technology increasingly affects their lives and futures,” UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement.
UNICEF calls for an expansion of access to online resources worldwide to tackle digital inequality: in Africa, three out of five young people are still offline, compared to just one in 25 in Europe, it notes.
Lake said the digital world also opens children up to new threats, including cyber-bullying and new forms of child abuse, and safeguards must be ramped up in line with new technologies.
He said predators can more easily make contact with children through anonymous and unprotected social media profiles and game forums.
UNICEF warned that new technologies like cryptocurrencies and the dark web facilitate the sharing of harmful content, such as “made-to-order” or live-streamed child sexual abuse material.