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How can we keep kids safe as exploitation online grows at a rapid pace?

POSTED March 21, 2022

How can we keep kids safe as exploitation online grows at a rapid pace?

We’re committed to joining with members of the ChildFund Alliance to protect children’s rights online

By Fred Witteveen, CEO,

Fred sits in front of a field

“The online exploitation of children is happening on an almost industrial scale,” declared UK Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014. “It is a major international crime of our age.”

That was eight years ago. Today, no region in the world has an online victimization rate lower than 44 percent, as reported through the research arm of The Economist newsmagazine, Economist Impact.

The threat has intensified since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider: eight in 10 police officers, across 39 countries, reported an increase in perpetrators trying to contact children online during that time, as reported by the International Criminal Police Organization.

Perhaps more frightening is children in developing countries have come online rapidly, missing out on the gradual advance of technology. In Cameroon, The Gambia, Kenya, Togo and Uganda, more than 50 percent of kids say they have seen a child their age in sexual abuse material online, documents WeProtect Global Alliance, which is committed to combating online child sexual abuse.

How we’re joining with partners to support online safety for children

As a member of the ChildFund Alliance (CFA) — a global network of child-focused development organizations — we’re connected with partners around the world committed to making change. Most recently, its four-year strategy includes a goal to keep children safe online.

Along with raising awareness — merely a jumping off point — there’s a mandate to strengthen laws and policies, to protect children and to ensure they have tools to engage online safely.

“We aim to protect children and their digital rights by assessing and identifying whether there are gaps that presently exist in global and national legislation,” explains Ryan De Souza, advocacy and policy advisor for the ChildFund Alliance.

He notes another important step: “[We need to equip] children with a full portfolio of skills and knowledge to help them avoid online risks, maximize online opportunities and exercise their rights in the online world.”

Girl works at computer

Work to keep children safe online is ongoing in the ChildFund Alliance

ChildFund Australia began addressing this issue when Internet capacity where they work in Vietnam ballooned to more than 70 percent, with more than 70-million people online.

Their Swipe Safe project was launched in 2017 to educate young people on potential risks, including cyber scams, bullying and sexual abuse, sharing tips for youth to protect themselves. The outcomes have been hopeful with all surveyed project participants saying they learned at least one way to protect themselves online. The next step is to ensure children are safe from online violence with support from a strengthened child-protection system.

Children Believe is adapting new ways to keep kids safe online

Indeed, the need to foster online safety is growing rapidly. At Children Believe, during the pandemic, we equipped creative learning centres in 130 program communities in India with technology, so children had access to learn online. With that, we trained staff who share with volunteers how to educate children about keeping safe online.

Meanwhile, our Paraguay team has been building online safety awareness campaigns for in-person training, social-media sharing and literature to educate about safe Internet use. They, like our India team, are testing models for our other country programs to follow.

Indeed, there’s a lot of work we need to do. We’re keen to join our ChildFund Alliance partners in being intentional about taking this initiative from awareness-building to policy-changing to empowering children with tools to speak up and protect their online safety rights.

Learn more about the plan we’ll follow as we continue to engage with CFA and train more front-line staff to keep kids safe online.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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