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80% young in danger of online sexual abuse: UNICEF

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Eight out of 10 eighteen-year-olds believe young people are in danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online.
Besides, more than five out of 10 think friends participate in risky behaviours while using the internet.

A new UNICEF study, ‘Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online’, is based on an international opinion poll of more than 10,000 18-year-olds from 25 countries, revealed young people’s perspectives on the risks they face growing up in an increasingly connected world, says a media release issued on Tuesday (June 7).

UNICEF’s associate director of Child Protection Cornelius Williams said: “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”.

“Globally, one in every 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 percent 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 percent strongly believe they can tell when people are lying about who they are online.

More than two-thirds of girls, 67 percent strongly agree they would be worried if they received sexual comments or requests over the internet, this compares to 47 percent 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 face an online risk.

Some other findings from the study include: African, Latin American and the Caribbean adolescents are in greater danger of being sexually abused online than those of Middle East and North Africa; adolescents in the USA and UK are most confident about their ability of avoiding online dangers with than their peers in Middle East and North Africa.

The research also found out that adolescents’ in Sub-Saharan Africa value meeting new people online than the USA and UK adolescents.

To engage children and adolescents in ending violence online, UNICEF is launching #ReplyforAll, which is part of its global End Violence Against Children initiative.

#ReplyforAll puts adolescents’ front and centre as messengers and advocates to keep themselves safe online. Children and adolescents 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.

Williams further said: “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”.

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