7 June 2016 – 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 behaviours while using the internet, a new Unicef study shows. 

Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online 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.

“The internet and mobile phones have revolutionized young people’s access to information, but the poll findings show just how real the risk of online abuse is for girls and boys,” said Unicef’s Associate Director of Child Protection, Cornelius Williams. “Globally, one in three internet users is a child. Today’s findings provide important insights from young people themselves. Unicef aims to amplify adolescents’ voices to help address online violence, exploitation and abuse, and make sure that children can take full advantage of the benefits the internet and mobile phones offer.”

The new report finds that adolescents appear confident with their own ability to stay safe, with nearly 90 per cent of interviewees believing they can avoid online dangers. Approximately six out of 10 said meeting new people online is either somewhat or very important to them, but only 36 per cent strongly believe they can tell when people are lying about who they are online. 

More than two-thirds of girls, 67 per cent strongly agree they would be worried if they received sexual comments or requests over the internet, this compares to 47 per cent of boys. 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.

In the UK, 88 per cent of 18 year olds surveyed agree that children and adolescents are in danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online and would turn to their friends if they felt threatened or unsafe online. In comparison, 70 per cent would talk to their parents or caregiver if they perceived a threat online while less than half, 42 per cent, would talk to a teacher.

ChildLine, run by the NSPCC, is a free platform that provides advice on a range of issues including online risks for young people in the UK. Through message boards, the ChildLine website and their YouTube channel, children and young people can support each other if they feel unsafe online.

Putting young people front and centre as messengers and advocates to keep themselves safe online, is key to Unicef’s global #ReplyforAll campaign, part of its EndViolence Against Children initiative. Though #ReplyforAll,children and adolescents worldwide will be asked to give their advice on the best ways to respond to online violence or risks and to raise awareness among friends through social media. This work has been supported by the WePROTECT Global Alliance, which is dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of children online through national and global action.

Unicef, together with the WePROTECT Global Alliance, is calling on national governments to establish coordinated responses between criminal justice systems including law enforcement, and child welfare, education, health and the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sectors, as well as civil society, to better protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation. 

“When young people, governments, families, the ICT sector and communities work together, we are more likely to find the best ways to respond to online sexual abuse and exploitation, and send a strong message that confronting and ending violence against children online – indeed anywhere – is all of our business,” said Williams.  

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Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online.

About the WePROTECT Global Alliance

The WePROTECT Global Alliance is dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of children online through national and global action. Its vision is to identify and safeguard more victims, apprehend more perpetrators and create and internet free from this crime. The WeProtect Global Alliance is comprised of governments, companies and civil society organizations signed up to the commitments made at the WePROTECT Children Online summits in London (2014) and Abu Dhabi (2015) and the members of the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online.

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

About ChildLine

ChildLine can be reached by calling 0800 1111

For further information, please contact:
Lilly Carlisle, Unicef UK, 02073756212, lillyc@unicef.org.uk

Unicef UK Press Office, 0207 375 6030, media@unicef.org.uk