UNICEF: Need to prioritise and protect well-being of children online

On the occasion of Safer Internet Day, the executive director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stressed the need to protect children’s well-being online. As children are spending more time online due to the pandemic, their exposure to online risks such as sexual exploitation and cyberbullying have increased significantly.

Highlighting the size and complexity of the issue, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children reports that it is estimated that at any point of time, 750,000 individuals are looking to connect with children online for sexual purposes.

For protecting the physical and mental well-being of children, UNICEF has recommended three areas for action: 

a) Encouraging governments to train healthcare, education, and social service professionals  about the impact of COVID-19 on children’s well-being and to ensure core services for child protection and mental health remain open during the pandemic.

b) Supporting parents in understanding the risks children face online and how to support their children.

c) Building capacity of schools to provide access to school-based counselling facilities and address mental health and child protection concerns.