Broadband Commission's Working Group finds children cannot fully realize opportunities

The Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Child Safety On-line, of which Baroness Kidron is a member, published their report earlier this month, outlining the scale and scope of online harm that children globally encounter. It finds: “too often, children cannot realize [educational, cultural, and economic] opportunities, because the Internet is also a place in which the vulnerable are exposed to the serious risk of harm.”

The Working Group on Child Safety On-line’s core objective is to raise awareness of the online risks and threats to children. The UN 2030 agenda’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals provides new opportunities to address violence against children: specifically, SDG 16.2, calls on states to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children by 2030. The Broadband Commission’s Working Group addresses the role of broadband in relation to how these risks are amplified, and the potential for broadband to be the solution to the problems.

The report finds that children around the world are regularly exposed to risks and harms including: sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking; online harassment, victimization and cyberbullying; radicalisation and recruitment by extremist organizations; exposure to misinformation and age-inappropriate content such as pornography and violence; apps and games that are designed to encourage unhealthy habits and behaviours; falling victim to illegal or unethical data harvesting and theft; the normalization of gender-based violence through exposure to online abuse materials, and notes “unfortunately, the fight against child online abuse and exploitation is neither unified nor pursued in a way that is consistent across all countries.”

The Group’s 20 Commissioners - spanning industry, policy, and NGO sectors - were supported by the knowledge of sixteen global experts in online violence against children, including Susie Hargreaves, IWF; Howard Taylor, End Violence; John Carr, CHIS; Amandeep Singh, UNSG High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation; Uri Sadeh, Interpol; and Jasmine Byrne, Unicef.

The report makes eight key recommendations, calling on governments, regulators, operators, the private sector, social media and gaming platforms, internet service providers, the UN and other child-focused agencies, the Broadband Commissioners, and their peers to mobilize toward collective action on behalf of children’s online safety. 

“While benefiting tremendously from connectivity for their education and entertainment, [children] are also exposed to major risks and threats online, including different forms of violence and exploitation, such as child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA), bullying, radicalization, and more. The challenges in tackling the dark side of connectivity are mounting. Unless we act now, the online exploitation of children could scale to even more appalling levels as we expand broadband into developing countries where most children live today… Making a unified global approach is more important and more urgent than ever” – Scott Gegenheimer, Zain Group; Dr. Joanna Rubinstein, Worldwide Childhood Foundation USA

Read the Working Group’s report here.