The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World [downloadable]
Each year, UNICEF’s flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children, closely examines a key issue affecting children. The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World examines the ways in which digital technology has already changed children’s lives and life chances – and explores what the future may hold.The report includes supporting data and statistics and is available in French and Spanish language versions. Download the full report using the link below:
Some key take-aways
Digital technology has already changed the world – and as more and more children go online around the world, it is increasingly changing childhood.
- Youth (ages 15–24) is the most connected age group. Worldwide, 71 per cent are online compared with 48 per cent of the total population.
- Children and adolescents under 18 account for an estimated one in three internet users around the world.
- A growing body of evidence indicates that children are accessing the internet at increasingly younger ages. In some
countries, children under 15 are as likely to use the internet as adults over 25.
- Smartphones are fueling a ‘bedroom culture’, with online access for many children becoming more personal, more private and less supervised.
Digital technology can also make children more susceptible to harm both online and off. Already vulnerable children may be at greater risk of harm, including loss of privacy.
- Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are intensifying traditional childhood risks, such as bullying, and fueling new forms of child abuse and exploitation, such as ‘made-to-order’ child sexual abuse material and live streaming of child sexual abuse.
- Predators can more easily make contact with unsuspecting children through anonymous and unprotected social media profiles and game forums.
- New technologies – like cryptocurrencies and the Dark web – are fueling live streaming of child sexual abuse and other harmful content, and challenging the ability of law enforcement to keep up.
- Ninety-two per cent of all child sexual abuse URLs identified globally by the Internet Watch Foundation are hosted in just five countries: the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, France and the Russian Federation.
Efforts to protect children need to focus particularly on vulnerable and disadvantaged children, who may be less likely to understand online risks – including loss of privacy – and more likely to suffer harms.
- While attitudes vary by culture, children often turn first to their peers when they experience risks and harms online, making it harder for parents to protect their children.
The potential impact of ICTs on children’s health and happiness is a matter of growing public concern – and an area that is ripe for further research and data.
- Although most children who are online view it as a positive experience, many parents and teachers worry that immersion in screens is making children depressed, creating internet dependency and even contributing to obesity.
- Inconsistent advice can be confusing for caregivers and educators, underlining the need for more high-quality research on the impact of ICTs on well-being.
- Researchers acknowledge that excessive use of digital technology can contribute to childhood depression and anxiety. Conversely, children who struggle offline can sometimes develop friendships and receive social support online that they are not receiving elsewhere.
- For most children, underlying issues– such as depression or problems at home – have a greater impact on health and happiness than screen time.
- Taking a ‘Goldilocks’ approach to children’s screen time – not too much, not too little – and focusing more on what children are doing online and less on how long they are online, can better protect them and help them make the most of their time online.
The private sector – especially in the technology and telecommunication industries – has a special responsibility and a unique ability to shape the impact of digital technology on children.
- The power and influence of the private sector should be leveraged to advance industry-wide ethical standards on data and privacy, as well as other practices that benefit and protect children online.
- Governments can promote market strategies and incentives that foster innovation and competition among service providers to help lower the cost of connecting to the internet, thereby expanding access for disadvantaged children and families.
- Technology and internet companies should take steps to prevent their networks and services from being used by offenders to collect and distribute child sexual abuse images or commit other violations against children.
- Media stories about the potential impact of connectivity on children’s healthy development and well-being should be grounded in empirical research and data analysis.
- And internet companies should work with partners to create more locally developed and locally relevant content, especially content for children who speak minority languages, live in remote locations and belong to marginalized groups.
Source: UNICEF | The State of the World’s Children, https://www.unicef.org/sowc2017/ | © UNICEF 2017
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