In its latest annual report, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World’, for the first time UNICEF has analysed how digital technology affects the lives of boys and girls, both in terms of its dangers and the opportunities it provides.
Digital technology has transformed the world we live in: it has upended entire industries, and altered our social landscape. Childhood has been similarly impacted by this unstoppable process: one of every three internet users in the world is a child, and young people are the most connected group of all. From the photographs they share to their medical records stored on the cloud, many children have left their mark on the digital world, even before learning to walk or talk.
Digital technology can be a turning point for underprivileged children, as it provides them with new opportunities to learn, interact and have their voices heard. Nevertheless, it can also form a great divide: millions of children are currently cut off from an increasingly connected world.
In its latest annual report, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World’, for the first time the UN agency has analysed how digital technology affects children, both in terms of its dangers and the opportunities it provides. “For better or worse, digital technology is an irreversible phenomenon in our lives”, recognized the executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake. “In a digital world, our twin challenge is to know how to reduce the harm of the internet and maximize its benefits for each child”, he argued.
Young people with internet access
Digital technology is developing as fast as the dangers faced by children when they connect to the internet. These range from cyber-bullying to the inadequate use of private information, exploitation and online sexual abuse.
For better or worse, digital technology is already at the centre of our lives, and it is here to stay. UNICEF’s report insists that the manner in which we minimize its risks while we increase the access to its benefits will help to define the lives and future of a new generation of digital natives.
The goal of UNICEF is to reveal how the internet and digital technology both facilitate and obstruct the learning, welfare and social relationships of children. In this analysis, the worldwide organization is urging countries and the pertinent authorities to make the internet a safer place for children, and also expand access to digital technology, especially for the most underprivileged.
“In a digital world, our twin challenge is to know how to reduce the harm of the internet and maximize its benefits for each child”, Anthony Lake.
As a result, UNICEF is calling on all governments, the digital technology sector and the telecommunications industry to make expanding internet access and protecting children their priorities. Policy makers and businesspeople should work towards the benefit of children by implementing practical measures, such as:
Giving all boys and girl access to high-quality internet resources; Protecting children from digital dangers; Guaranteeing children’s privacy; Providing digital training; Making strides in implementing ethical practices and regulations that protect children; Placing children at the forefront of digital policies.
In the same way, at ProFuturo our mission is to reduce the world’s educational divide by providing quality digital education to vulnerable boys and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South-East Asia.
Children in a digital world. Some facts
- One in every three internet users in the world is a boy or a girl.
- Children between 15 and 24 are the most connected group, to the point where 71% use the internet.
- Nevertheless, a third of the young people in the world, 346 million, are not connected. This further ingrains inequality and reduces these young people’s capacity to participate in an increasingly digital economy.
- In Africa, three out of every five young people are unconnected –in Europe this figure is only one in 25– making Africa the most unconnected continent.
- The digital gap is also a gender gap: worldwide, 12% more men than women used the internet in 2017. In the case of India, for example, less than a third of internet users are women, according to the report.