The rise of the Internet has delivered new levels of creativity, innovation and informed generations, especially among children and young people. Even so, this connectivity has also become a vehicle for extreme harm. Although children have long been exposed to violence and exploitation, the Internet and new technologies have changed the scale, form and impact of the abuse of young people everywhere. Thanks to the generous contributions of the United Kingdom Home Office, Human Dignity Foundation, and the Oak Foundation, the End Violence Fund supports projects around the world that protect children from online exploitation and abuse.
Children’s lives and experiences are increasingly being shaped in the digital world. More than 200,000 children go online every day, and 800 million are actively using social media. Children's lives are now being shaped behind a screen, and every day, children are diving deeper into platforms not designed with their safety in mind. As they ingest information, build friendships and make connections, disturbing trends are emerging that threaten children of all ages — even those too young to speak.
The Internet has made child sexual exploitation and abuse available on-demand; the ever-increasing use of live-streaming, grooming and sextortion has made the digital sphere a difficult place to be a child. The explosion of smartphone technology around the world has only catalysed this threat, and the resulting statistics are incredibly alarming.
The numbers of violent and sexual images and videos of children uploaded or live streamed on the Internet and Dark Web are increasing at an incredible speed. For example: the number of reported photos and images received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children grew nearly tenfold in three years, from 1.1 million in 2014 to 10.2 million by 2017. This number almost doubled in 2018, with 18.4 million reports received in that year alone. The Internet Watch Foundation also reported that in 2017 alone, online photos and videos with sexual abuse of children increased 37 percent as compared to 2016.
The Global Threat Assessment conducted by the WeProtect Global Alliance cited that one of the many hidden Internet services dedicated to the abuse of infants and toddlers contained over 18,000 registered members, with another similar forum receiving over 23 million visits. Some studies show that younger children are at an even higher risk. A survey conducted by the Canadian Center for Child Protection indicates that 56 percent of the child abuse online began before the age of 4, and 42 percent were abused for more than 10 years. Reports received by the Internet Watch Foundation show that in the United Kingdom, half of online child sexual abuse cases involve children under age 10, and one-third of those images involve rape and sexual torture.
Since its inception in 2016, the End Violence Fund has invested in finding solutions to these problems. The Fund supports 37 grantee partners to rescue victims of online sexual abuse and support survivors; establish reporting hotlines; contribute to behaviour change and awareness raising among both adults and children; strengthen law enforcement and legislative reform dealing with these issues; and develop industry solutions within the technology sector.
In the Philippines, for example, the Fund has supported the International Justice Mission to rescue 116 children from situations of online sexual exploitation and abuse, and provide those children with after-care services to help them recover and rebuild their lives. And around the world, the Fund has strengthened the work of Thorn, which helps identify child victims and investigate individuals who produce child sexual abuse materials on the dark web. In less than a year, Thorn's efforts have identified over 800 children and 450 perpetrators in 37 countries.
During COVID-19, children are spending more time online than ever before. Use these resources to keep children safe while they learn, play and spend time on the Internet.
Keep your children safe online by accessing tips and resources from the tech companies themselves. End Violence has teamed up with our partners in the technology industry, including Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Roblox and Snapchat, to develop a new campaign to help keep children safe in this rapidly changing environment. Learn more here.
Download the online safety technical note, which was created by End Violence and partners to help governments, information, technology and communication companies, educators and parents protect children from online risks in lockdown.
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has developed a series of resources and tools to keep children safe online during COVID-19 isolation. Visit their website for online safety kits, tips for caregivers, and more, including a guide for parents across the world. You can also read this article from Australia's eSafety Commissioner, which provides guidance on protecting children from online threats during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Check out this tip sheet for keeping children safe online. This one-pager is part of a collective effort by multiple partners to help parents and children better understand the risks of the digital world and protect themselves.
Want to expand your knowledge of digital literacy? Check out these resources, which were collated and in part, produced, by the Council of Europe. On their website, you can find information about controlling children's screen time, finding quality digital content for children, and how to spot the signs of online violence.
The FBI's Safe Online Surfing (SOS) programme teaches students in grades 3 to 8 how to navigate the web safely. It is available in English and Spanish.
Understand your role as a mandatory reporter by using this brief on children's online safety, which was created by International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children.
Check out the Family Online Safety Institute's tool for good digital parenting.
Europol has created a resource centre for information, tools and materials for keeping children safe online. Access the resources here.
Make virtual school safer for your children by reading this short information packet from the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children.
Tips on online safety
Better Internet for Kids has information on INHOPE and InSafe's work through a network of Safer Internet Centres across Europe. These centres typically comprise of an awareness centre, helpline, hotline and youth panel. On their website, you can access specific information and services for each country within the European Union and the United Kingdom.
NSPCC's website contains information on online safety, with a particular focus on educating parents on ways to keep their children safer. They also have information on specific forms of technology, including live-streaming applications, online games, and more.
INHOPE has been fighting child sexual abuse material since 1999. They support 47 hotlines across the world that operates in all European Union member states, Russia, South Africa, North and South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is a leading reporting and information center for all issues related to exploitation, abduction and abuse in the United States. On their website, you can search missing posters, call their 24-hour hotline, review AMBER alerts, and make a cyber tipline report.
Learn more about the risks facing children online
WePROTECT Global Threat Assessment 2019 is a deep dive into child sexual exploitation threats across the world. This report, which was published by the WePROTECT Global Alliance in 2019, aims to raise international awareness around the issue and provide a greater understanding of how the threat has evolved over time. It also provides information on the impact child sexual exploitation has on both survivors and society, and includes recent case studies to support further investment and intervention.
Child Online Safety: Minimising the Risk of Violence, Abuse and Exploitation Online was published by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development in October 2019. It aims to increase the priorisation of child online safety among decision-makers from governments, the private sector, civil society and academia by presenting evidence on the scale and nature of the risks children face online. The report also provides actionable recommendations to increase children's safety.
Global Kids Online Comparative Report was published by UNICEF in 2019. It reveals results using the Global Kids Online methodology, which, in this itieration, surveyed nearly 15,000 children in 11 countries across four regions. From 2016-2018, the survey focused on access, activities, skills, risks and parental mediation as it relates to the Internet. The survey also included one parent of each child, and incorporated qualitative research through focus groups.
Why Businesses Should Invest in Digital Safety is a short brief published by UNICEF in 2019. It pushes for the technology industry to prioritise children's safety, and lays out the business case for respecting children's rights in the digital world. It also encourages businesses to evaluate how rapid developments in technology could pose new risks for children, and how to integrate safety by design into their operations.
Ending the Torment: Tackling Bullying from the Schoolyard to Cyberspace is a report published by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children. This report highlights bullying both on and offline, and includes case studies on approaches to prevent and end bullying in all its forms.
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