Advocacy Brief | Prioritizing the Safety of Children Online During the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has prompted widespread school closures and physical distancing measures, making online platforms and communities essential to maintaining a sense of normalcy. While children and their families are turning to digital solutions more than ever to support children’s learning, socialization and play, ever younger children are spending more time online, often without adequate supervision or access to protective services.
Digital technology provides significant opportunities for sustaining and promoting children’s rights. When child safeguarding policies are limited or absent, however, these tools may increase children’s exposure to online risks, including bullying, abuse and sexual exploitation; exposure to harmful content; inappropriate collection, use and sharing of data; and opportunities for risky behavior offline. Not all risk-taking is harmful, but children facing other challenges may be more likely to suffer harm. Efforts to mitigate online risks should be balanced with children’s rights to privacy, access to information and freedom of expression.
Keeping children safe online during the pandemic requires concerted, urgent action by parents and caregivers, school authorities, digital technology companies, providers, social service workers, governments and multilateral institutions. We call on national governments, supported by multilateral institutions, to develop specific COVID-19 online safety programs for children that:
• Strengthen national efforts to prevent, respond to and seek justice for online threats
• Provide support to parents, caregivers and schools to implement online safety protocols
• Make online platforms safe and accessible for children
• Empower children online