Around 72 percent of children globally have experienced at least one type of cyber threat online, a new cybersecurity report found.
The Saudi-based Global Cybersecurity Forum (GCF) and global consulting firm Boston Consulting Group released the ‘Why Children are Unsafe in the Cyberspace’ report this week to raise awareness on protecting children, one of the most vulnerable groups actively using the internet.
According to the report, more than 90 percent of children aged eight and above were actively using the internet.
Unwanted advertisements, bullying, harassment, and inappropriate content were among the main threats experienced by children.
Across 24 countries and six regions, more than 40,000 parents and children were surveyed. The report’s findings suggested that the protection of children in cyberspace is falling short, highlighting the need for immediate collective action globally.
Although children are most active online at home or school, the report suggested that only half of the children surveyed felt safe online, with one in five children expressing that they faced bullying or harassment in some form.
“With 72 percent of children facing cyber threats, we believe the protection of children is crucial in a rapidly developing Cyberspace,” GCF Initiatives and Partnerships Lead Alaa al-Faadhel said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The solution to the pervasive threats that children face is to raise awareness of the issues and ensure united action, from educators to the private sector, can be put in motion. We all bare a responsibility to create a safe place to learn and connect in Cyberspace as it becomes more entrenched in everything we do.”
The Middle East and Latin America reported the highest number of threats experienced by children online.
A large majority of children surveyed for the report (83 percent) claimed they would alert their parents or ask them for help in the event of an online threat or if they felt threatened. Conversely, however, only 39 percent of the parents surveyed said their child or children had never expressed any concerns to them, further raising the question of how children’s protection in the online space can be ensured when parents are not always aware of the dangers they may be facing while browsing the web or interacting with others on social media.
“With almost all 12-year-olds now online and virtual learning on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping children safe in Cyberspace is an urgent problem that requires an immediate solution,” said BCG Managing Director and Partner David Panhans.
“Everyone involved in the online and child protection ecosystem has a role to play, from international organizations, regulators and law enforcement agencies, parents, caregivers, and education providers to technology companies in the private sector.”
The report called on all stakeholders to take action to ensure more robust solutions and security frameworks are in place to help mitigate the threats children are facing online.
The upcoming GCF will bring together industry executives from around the world to discuss child protection online, among many other key topics such as geopolitical considerations.
The event is set to be held in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh from November 9 to 10 this year under the theme ‘Rethinking the Global Cyber Order.’