As children spend more and more time online, the cyber risks they face, such as online bullying, inappropriate content and digital addiction, are getting worse. There was even a recent report that said that mobile apps that help people monitor their children are also leaking data to third parties and possibly malicious actors.
According to a new research study, up to 72% of children accessing the Internet have encountered at least one cyber threat online, rising to 78% in the 16-18 age group. Overall, 81% of children access the internet daily and 45% percent spend more than three hours on the internet every day.
The ‘Why Children Are Unsafe in Cyberspace’ survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Global Cybersecurity Forum (GCF), based on a survey of 41,000 parents and children online in 6 regions and 24 countries, activities non-academic are watching something, playing games or using social media where these cyber threats can often occur.
The report said (opens in new tab) Child protection in cyberspace is an urgent issue that needs immediate attention and more targeted responses than we have seen so far. The good news, however, is that a plan to make the online world a safer place for children is starting to emerge.
What is the parent’s response?
The research found that online threats are endemic and affect a substantial number of children. About 93% of children ages 8 to 17 are on the internet, and nearly three in four respondents to the research study said they have experienced at least one cyber threat.
The report found that while 83% of children surveyed said they would turn to their parents if threatened online, only 39% of parents were approached with concerns about online threats, indicating that many incidents remain undisclosed. Furthermore, only 41% of parents would report problematic content received by their children to the police, and only 34% would report such content to their children’s school. Furthermore, while three-quarters of parents set limits on the amount of time their children spend online, only 60% check their internet activity at least once a week and 20% do so only once a year.
The Latin America and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is home to the highest percentage of younger children online: respectively, 70% and 65% of 8-year-olds are online in these regions, compared to 50% in Asia -Pacific and 48% in Europe. Children in Latin America and MENA also experienced the highest levels of cyber threats, with 79% in Latin America and 77% in MENA having experienced at least one of these threats.
But what exactly constitutes a threat? It can be in the form of content (including exposure to illegal and age-inappropriate content, embedded marketing and online gambling), contact (including ideological persuasion, exploitation, sexual abuse and trafficking, harassment and drug addiction), conduct (including cyberbullying and excessive screen time) and consumer (including marketing and financial and security risks).
Alaa AlFaadhel, GCF Initiatives and Partnerships Leader, said: “With 72% of children facing cyber threats, we believe that protecting children is crucial in a rapidly developing cyberspace. The solution to the pervasive threats children face is to increase the awareness of the issues and ensure that joint action, from educators to the private sector, can be set in motion.”