UNICEF on Tuesday (Feb 5) called for concerted action to tackle and prevent violence against children and young people online in Bangladesh where the internet population has witnessed 800 times growth since 2000. On the Safer Internet Day, UNICEF warned of the dangers posed by online violence, cyberbullying and digital harassment for the 32 percent children aged 10 to 17 years in the country. The call came after a recent UNICEF poll of young people and suggestions from a series of student-led #ENDviolence Youth Talks held around the world.
A UNICEF Bangladesh commissioned study titled ‘Online Safety of Children in Bangladesh’ said the country’s online population was getting younger with children as young as 11 using the internet daily. It surveyed 1,281 children (aged 10 to 17) from schools, colleges, and madrasahs who use internet and found that 25 percent of them (aged 10-17) started accessing the digital world below the age of 11.
In Bangladesh, boys (63%) are ahead of girls (48%) in terms of high frequency online access and use. Ten percent had been exposed to religiously provocative content but those aged between 16 and17 had been exposed to such contents more than other groups of children.
The use of private rooms as primary internet usage point by 63 percent surveyed children indicates the prevalence of less supervised internet use, the report noted.
Chatting and watching videos were found to be the two most frequent internet activities, with 33 percent chatting online and 30 percent watching videos daily.
Shockingly, the study revealed that 70 percent boys and 44 percent girls admitted to befriending unknown people online. A number of the respondents said they had met the online ‘friends’ in person, risking their safety.
“We’ve heard from children and young people from Bangladesh and around the world and what they are saying is clear: The Internet has become a kindness desert,” said Edouard Beigbeder, the UNICEF Bangladesh representative.
“That’s why this Safer Internet Day, Unicef is following young people’s lead and inviting everyone to be kind online, and calling for greater action to make the Internet a safer place for everyone, especially children.”
‘Tip the balance for good’
Older children may be more exposed to cyberbullying than younger ones but children, in general, are not immune from harmful content, sexual exploitation and abuse.
Cyberbullying can cause profound harm as it can quickly reach a wide audience, and can remain accessible online indefinitely – virtually ‘following’ its victims online for life.
Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and skip school than other students. They also are more likely to receive poor grades and experience low self-esteem and health problems. In extreme situations, cyberbullying has even led to suicide.
“Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the creation of the World Wide Web, it is time for governments, families, academia and, critically, the private sector to put children and young people at the centre of digital policies," said Beigbeder.
“By protecting them from the worst the Internet has to offer and expanding access to its best, we can each help tip the balance for good.”