Report on youth consultation survey on perceptions of online safety

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WeProtect Global Alliance (the Alliance) and the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children (OSRSG VAC) conducted a poll open to children from around the world.

The poll aimed to better understand children’s perceptions of online safety and explore whether these match their experiences.

Thematic areas cover perceptions of online dangers, the safety of various digital platforms, potential sources of online harm or abuse, comfort levels when disclosing personal information online, perceived risks associated with online interactions, and proposed solutions to improve online safety.

The poll results highlight there are real gaps in how safe children feel online. By looking at how the use of technology manifests in children’s lives and what online safety means to them, we can identify steps to ensure they can enjoy all the benefits of the digital world free from the threat and long-term harm of violence and abuse.

Key findings:
  • An overwhelming majority of respondents believe they are likely or very likely to encounter harmful or unsafe situations online, especially 14-18 year olds.
  • While respondents perceive various online platforms differently in terms of safety, private messaging apps are generally considered the safest, followed by gaming platforms.
  • Respondents believe that they are most likely to experience harm or abuse online from adults and children they don’t know, and the home is significantly perceived as the most likely location for these incidents to occur.
  • Respondents across age groups and genders largely agree on the biggest online risks: being asked to do something sexual they are uncomfortable with, interacting with someone who is pretending to be someone they are not and having personal information stolen or shared without their permission.
  • Sharing personal images, videos, or information with people children only met online is met with significant discomfort, especially among those in the 7-10 and 11-13 age groups.

Report insight: Respondents believe they are most likely to experience harm or abuse online from adults and children they don’t know. In reality, it is more often people that they do know.

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Technology companies should prioritise sexual exploitation and abuse when tackling online harms
A shift in perception of possible perpetrators is required to increase awareness and understanding that offenders more often than not are known to children
More robust and effective legislation is urgently needed to keep children safe online and children need to be involved in the process
Comprehensive online safety education – at school and at home – is essential, particularly among younger children

Read the report