With every third internet user being under the age of 18, online child sexual abuse has become a global public safety issue — producing a generation of victims. The WeProtect Global Alliance estimates that a staggering 54% of those who regularly used the internet as a child (now aged 18-20) were the victims of at least one online sexual harm. The stigma that still surrounds child sexual exploitation and abuse makes it likely that what we know is only the tip of the iceberg, and that our statistics underestimate the prevalence of the issue.
Though highly alarming, sexual exploitation and abuse are just one form of illegal or harmful content or conduct impacting young people online. Cyberbullying, impersonation, trolling, harassment, exposure to hate speech, encouraging self-harm, identity theft and phishing aimed at children are also on the rise. Consequences range from cautionary tales to harrowing tragedies. For example, Italy ordered TikTok to block anyone whose age could not be confirmed, following the death of a 10-year-old who attempted a dangerous challenge. We are also just learning that young people, regardless of gender, are susceptible to eating disorder trends that can be amplified by social media.
Read the full version of this article on the World Economic Forum.