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UNICEF calls for urgent action to protect children in digital world

Print version
06 February 2018

Digital technology has transformed the world. As more and more children go online, it is increasingly changing childhood. Globally, more than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day – a new child every half a second.

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In a rapidly changing digital world, connectivity can be a gamechanger for children, helping them fulfil their potential. But digital access is fast becoming the new dividing line.  Many children who could most benefit from digital technology are missing out.

Digital access exposes children to a wealth of benefits and opportunities, but also to a host of risks and harms, including access to harmful content, sexual exploitation and abuse, cyberbullying, and misuse of their private information.

Technology can also make children more susceptible to harm. Already-vulnerable children may face greater risks, including loss of privacy. The potential impact of ICTs on children’s health and happiness is a matter of growing public concern.

Worldwide, 1 in 3 internet users is a child, and yet too little is done to protect them from the perils of the digital world, to safeguard the trail of information their online activities create, and to increase their access to safe and quality online content. The obligation to protect children in the digital world lands on everyone, including governments, the private sector, civil society, families, and schools.

In Uzbekistan, the number of mobile subscribers grew by 1.4 million in 2017, official figures show. The total number of mobile subscribers in the country now stands at 22.8 million. Mobile subscription has grown in the country by around ten percent in the last five years. 

Today, on Safer Internet Day, UNICEF is calling for renewed urgency and cooperation among governments, civil society, United Nations agencies and other international children’s organizations, and, most significantly, the private sector to put children at the centre of digital policy. We need a much greater commitment by the private sector and government to protect and not misuse children’s data and to respect its encryption.

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It is extremely important to keep children informed, engaged and safe online. They can be empowered through more equitable access and digital literacy. This requires greater collaboration between governments and technologists to develop ICT platforms and curricula from primary school through high school.

As younger and younger children join the Internet, the need to have a serious discussion about how to keep them safe online and secure their digital footprint becomes increasingly urgent.

Author: UNICEF

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UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.

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