International Safer Internet Day, February 8, serves as a reminder that we all have a role to play in keeping children and adolescents safe online. This year’s theme, “Together for a better internet,” calls for all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for children and adolescents now and in the future.
The online world has become a central part of many children’s and adolescents’ lives. UNICEF data shows that one in three internet users worldwide is a child or adolescent under 18.
While the internet and mobile devices provide children and adolescents with endless opportunities to learn, connect, play and grow, our digital world is not designed with child safety in mind. Access to the online world can be unsafe for children to explore and it can put children at risk of child sexual exploitation and abuse online, a real and growing challenge. The US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) processes on average 60,000 reports of child sexual abuse online every day.
Child sexual exploitation and abuse online is prevalent but has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, the Internet Watch Foundation saw a 77 percent rise in child ‘self-generated’ sexual material. Additionally, NCMEC saw a 100 percent increase in reports from the public of online CSEA from 2019 to 2020. According to WeProtect Global Alliance, “the scale and rate of change is unprecedented.”
While the scale of child sexual exploitation and abuse online is increasing, so is our ability to tackle it, and we all have a role to play in doing so. Whether a policy- or decision-maker, private company or civil society organization, parent or caregiver, there are tools and resources available that each of us can use to collectively make sure the digital world is safe for children and adolescents.
The WeProtect Global Alliance and ECPAT International recently published a global report of their research project amplifying the voices of survivors of child sexual abuse online. The report shares recommendations for governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector on how they can provide better prevention, reporting and support mechanisms tailored to children’s needs.
Learn more about the research findings and recommendations for increasing the availability, quality and effectiveness of support services for survivors.
The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children’s Safe Online initiative supports projects around the world that protect children from online exploitation and abuse.
In addition to investing in projects that keep children safe online, Safe Online contributes to global policy discussions on child online safety and helps maximize the use of collective resources to make the internet safer.
Explore the Safe Online webpage to learn more about the initiative and find additional resources for keeping children safe online.
On February 8, USAID will host the Protecting Children and Youth from Digital Harm Symposium with support from Digital Frontiers at DAI, TechChange and Save the Children.
The symposium will provide a forum to learn, share and engage with leaders in government, civil society and the private sector, as well as youth on the topic of tackling digital harm issues. TfG Executive Director and CEO Dr. Daniela Ligiero will speak about data and evidence on sexual violence against children and youth.
Learn more and register for the event.
Our society has a responsibility to keep children safe and thriving worldwide. While child sexual exploitation and abuse online is a challenge that can seem insurmountable, it’s also a challenge that collectively, we can meet.
On Safer Internet Day and every day, we can and must work together to ensure that all children and adolescents are safe online, now and in the future.
To learn more about what works to prevent sexual violence against children, including child sexual exploitation and abuse online, explore our What Works evidence review.
The pandemic affords a unique opportunity to create better and safer schools in our communities.
This policy brief is targeted at policymakers and practitioners working in gender, education, and child protection fields.
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The COVID-19 lockdowns around the U.S. have exacerbated what was already a widespread problem gripping our nation: the trapping of children at home with sexual abusers.