Close to two-thirds of children across the globe are vulnerable to cyber risk, according to a new study.
The DQ Institute (DQI) surveyed almost 150,000 young people, spread across 30 countries, as it spent three years compiling what it claims is the world’s first real-time child online safety index (COSI).
Sixty per cent of children aged eight to 12 were found to be exposed to one or more forms of cyber risk, constituting what the DQI says is a “cyber pandemic”.
“The child online safety index should serve as a wake-up call to everyone about the safety of the world’s children online,” said DQI founder, Dr Yuhyun Park.
Everyone in society has a role to play in turning this around
The COSI found that:
- 45% of online children across the surveyed countries are affected by cyber bullying
- 39% experience reputational risks
- 29% are exposed to violent and sexual content
- 28% experience cyber threats
- 17% experience risky contact, such as offline meetings with strangers
- 13% are at risk of a gaming disorder
- 7% are at risk of a social media disorder
Japan is claimed to be the safest country for children online, with less than a quarter (24%) exposed, and Thailand the most problematic with more than three-quarters (79%) under threat.
“No nation, even those ranked highly, has cause for complacency,” warned Park. “What we are witnessing is a global cyber-pandemic with high exposure to multiple forms of online risks threatening children across all the countries we surveyed.”
The COSI used six measures to determine online safety levels, with nation-by-nation findings including:
- Cyber risk – Spain rated best, followed by Australia, with Thailand ranking worst
- Disciplined digital use – A look at social media and gaming frequency, mobile phone ownership and screen time. Japan came first, with eight-19 year-olds spending 24 hours a week looking at screens, almost half the time (44 hours) attributed to the lowest rated Dominican Republic
- Digital competency – Or young people’s ability to use tech safely and responsibly. India was ranked first and, again, Thailand last
- Guidance and education – Rating advice and protection from schools and parents. Egypt rated best, Indonesia worst
- Social infrastructure – Assessing a state’s policies for child online protection, together with ethical industry practices. The United States was ranked first, Nepal last
- Connectivity – Ease of online access. Singapore placed first, with Nepal coming last
The COSI will be updated in real-time, as countries evolve digital citizenship initiatives and child online safety policies. This, says DQI, should help states coordinate more effectively and lead to global progress.
“Everyone in society has a role to play in turning this around,” added Park. “Businesses, from social media and telecommunications to hardware and gaming companies, should make child online safety a core business principle. Companies should also partner with schools to help tackle cyber bullying. And governments must back stronger digital education.
“Most importantly, parents must be aware that they can make changes and reduce online harm. Helping children discipline their digital use from an early age is a necessary starting point for mitigating cyber risks. Primary schools also must teach students digital citizenship as part of their standard curriculum.”