U.S. Fund for UNICEF

June 07, 2016 10:38 ET

Eighty Percent of 18-Year-Olds Believe Young People Are in Danger of Online Sexual Abuse -- UNICEF/Ipsos Global Poll

In the U.S., the Figure Rises to 85 Percent, but 94 Percent of American Teens Are Confident They Can Protect Themselves on Social Media

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - June 07, 2016) - Eight out of ten 18-year-olds believe young people are in danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online, and more than five out of 10 think friends participate in risky behaviors while using the internet, a new UNICEF study shows.

Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online is based on an international opinion poll of more than 10,000 18-year-olds from 25 countries, revealing young people's perspectives on the risks they face growing up in an increasingly connected world.

"The internet and mobile phones have revolutionized young people's access to information, but the poll findings show just how real the risk of online abuse is for girls and boys," said UNICEF's Associate Director of Child Protection, Cornelius Williams. "Globally, one in three internet users is a child. Today's findings provide important insights from young people themselves. UNICEF aims to amplify adolescents' voices to help address online violence, exploitation and abuse, and make sure that children can take full advantage of the benefits the internet and mobile phones offer."

The new report finds that adolescents appear confident with their own ability to stay safe, with nearly 90 percent of interviewees (94 percent in the U.S.) believing they can avoid online dangers. Approximately six out of 10 said meeting new people online is either somewhat or very important to them, but only 36 percent strongly believe they can tell when people are lying about who they are online. U.S. teens are more confident than the global average; 68 percent believe they can tell when someone is lying about who they are online.

More than two-thirds of girls, 67 percent strongly agree they would be worried if they received sexual comments or requests over the internet, this compares to 47 percent of boys. When online threats do occur, more adolescents turn to friends than parents or teachers, but less than half strongly agree they know how to help a friend facing an online risk.

U.S. specific findings from Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online include:

  • Eighteen-year-olds prioritize online security with 95 percent agreeing that protecting their privacy while online is important.
  • Forty one percent of eighteen-year-olds in the U.S. believe online bullying or abuse would never happen to them, particularly among boys (49 percent compared with 32 percent girls).
  • Eighty five percent of eighteen-year-olds in the U.S. agree that children and adolescents are in danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online.
  • Eighteen-year-olds in the U.S. (alongside the UK) are most confident they can avoid online dangers with 94 percent strongly or somewhat agreeing they can protect themselves on social media.

To engage children and adolescents in ending violence online, UNICEF is launching #ReplyforAll, which is part of its global End Violence Against Children initiative. #ReplyforAll puts adolescents' front and center as messengers and advocates to keep themselves safe online. Children and adolescents will be asked to give their advice on the best ways to respond to online violence or risks and to raise awareness among friends through social media. This work has been supported by the WePROTECT Global Alliance, which is dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of children online through national and global action.

UNICEF, together with the WePROTECT Global Alliance, is calling on national governments to establish coordinated responses between criminal justice systems including law enforcement, and child welfare, education, health and the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sectors, as well as civil society, to better protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation.

"When young people, governments, families, the ICT sector and communities work together, we are more likely to find the best ways to respond to online sexual abuse and exploitation, and send a strong message that confronting and ending violence against children online -- indeed anywhere -- is all of our business," said Williams.

Download broadcast quality photos and video.

Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online.

Learn more about the #ReplyforAll campaign.

About the WePROTECT Global Alliance
The WePROTECT Global Alliance is dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of children online through national and global action. Its vision is to identify and safeguard more victims, apprehend more perpetrators and create and internet free from this crime. The WeProtect Global Alliance is comprised of governments, companies and civil society organizations signed up to the commitments made at the WePROTECT Children Online summits in London (2014) and Abu Dhabi (2015) and the members of the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit

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