Policy & legislation

National and international policies, rules and legislation can help shape a digital world designed to keep children safe

Why is this needed?

A combination of policy, rules and legislation is needed to help protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online, and to help make the internet a safe space for them to explore. This includes regulations and laws passed by governments, as well as policies and procedures in private sector organisations.

Compared to other sectors, such as finance or aviation, the regulation of online harm is relatively immature. However, in recent years, the need for internet policy and regulation in recent years has moved up the global agenda due to the steep rise in child sexual exploitation and abuse online.

Policy and legislation can contribute to building a safer internet for children if:

global leaders

Global leaders are accountable and willing to work together and allocate enough resources to tackle child sexual abuse online.

worldwide analysis

Research, analysis and monitoring of the state of the harm are carried out at the national and international levels.

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Comprehensive and effective legal frameworks are built to investigate offenders and ensure protection for victims.

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Policies also need to be aligned between countries, regions and with international laws and frameworks.

You can find more detailed information about how policy and legislation can help tackle child sexual abuse online in our frameworks, the Model National Response and the Global Strategic Response, and their online guides.

What is being done in this area?

Our and UNICEF’s Framing the Future report gives an insight into how 42 Alliance countries have responded to child sexual abuse online and some of their challenges and best practices.

When it comes to policy and legislation, the report shows that:

76% of the countries surveyed have established a multi-stakeholder governance mechanism to protect children from child sexual abuse and exploitation online
2 / 3 of the countries surveyed have a relevant national policy or strategy

Online Safety laws

As this opinion piece explains, the regulation of online harms hasn’t reached the same level of maturity as other sectors, such as finance or aviation. However, the increasing scale and complexity of child sexual abuse online has brought the debate around online safety laws to a new level of urgency. And it has led to different governments drafting new legislations tackling forms of abuse online, including child sexual abuse online.

UNICEF has developed a global guide, Legislating for the digital age, which offers insights on how to strengthen legislative frameworks to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online.

EU legislation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse

The proposed EU legislation intends to help EU countries prevent, detect and report child sexual abuse online, and support victims.