Among current global debates is one over the Internet: how much does it serve forces of division, if not evil, versus how great a tool is it for progress. One hand, we see exploitation of the Internet by such villains as sexual predators and terrorist recruiters. On the other, we find a constructive â€˜death of distanceâ€™ providing opportunities, e.g., to link poor farmers with far-away agricultural experts, or between the sick in isolated regions and urban-based medical experts.
So what is the balance in cyberspace between â€˜the forces of good and evilâ€™? Are apprehensions well founded or reflect needless worry? Knowing the true state of affairs can help us to formulate policy and lead to better practices. For the UN and global citizens interested in reaching far-flung parts of the world – to support short-term humanitarian aid or long-term development – knowing dangers to watch for and opportunities to seize is crucial.
To shed light on the situation related to children, UNICEF, in its annual â€œState of the Worldâ€™s Childrenâ€ has presented findings from a study: â€œChildren in a Digital Worldâ€ that weighs benefits from digital technology for children and youth – notably those growing up in poverty or caught by humanitarian crises. Here are some of its findings.
– On one hand, â€œmillions of children are missing out â€¦ one third of the worldâ€™s youth â€“ 346 million â€“ are not online, exacerbating inequities and reducing childrenâ€™s ability to participate in an increasingly digital economy.â€
– At the same time, â€œdespite childrenâ€™s massive online presence (in parts of the world) â€“ 1 in 3 Internet users worldwide is a child â€“ too little is done to protect them â€¦ and to increase their access to safe online content.â€
– â€œDigital networks â€¦ are enabling the worst forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking and â€¦ online child sexual abuse.â€
– â€œMore than 9 in 10 child sexual abuse URLs identified â€¦ are hosted in five countries â€“ Canada, France, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the United States.â€
– UNICEF â€œargues that governments and the private sector have not kept up with the pace of change, exposing children to new risks and … leaving millions of the most disadvantaged children behind.â€
– The head of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, believes â€œdigital policies, practices, and products should better reflect childrenâ€™s needs.â€
Web-link for a copy of UNICEFâ€™s SOWC: https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_101992.html