Keeping children safe online is even more crucial during the pandemic

The threats don’t just come from strangers, they can also come from people that children may already know, online or offline.

Children using computers in Vietnam. Article by Jason Ward for the Youth IGF. Photo credits: Sasin Tipchai/Pixabay.

What are the risks children face online?

Without proper supervision or oversight, children face a variety of potential issues. With increased exposure to the internet, young people may become more relaxed when talking to strangers online. Adults might then build relationships, ‘grooming’ them for sexual abuse or persuading them to swap sexual images or take part in ‘sexting’. This is a particular issue in chat rooms — especially those designed for children — as they tend to be poorly regulated.

What can be done to make the internet a safer place for young people?

On a more personal level, there is a need for openness and discussion between parents, teachers and children. Parents need to set boundaries and talk about the possible dangers. As a family, limits on time and the sort of sites visited are crucial, as is the need to inform children of the risks in an open and frank way. Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing and encourage them to share their activities.

Developing countries are getting connected and face different challenges but similar risks

Youth IGF has been spreading the message about online child safety and has conducted interviews with educators worldwide. They have been learning the challenges faced in developing countries, where children can be exposed to the digital world without a lot of prior experience. By talking to local teachers, it is possible to understand better how children access the internet and the urgent need for training on how to teach internet safety. Problems also vary from country to country.

The online world is a global one, and its dangers to children need to be tackled at an international level

The internet is global, and the threats and dangers posed to children are the same everywhere. The interviews conducted by Youth IGF and similar studies show that an increasing number of young people are gaining online access even in the most remote areas. The coronavirus has hastened this, but it’s a situation that is here to stay.

If more action isn’t taken soon, the internet will become even more dangerous. Every day matters, and it is time to ask what we can do to protect the young, before more are put at risk.

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