On #SaferInternetDay - and every day - we continue to work together for a safer internet

NEW YORK - 5 February 2019: With over 800 million children online around the world, making every day a ‘SaferInternetDay’ is more important than ever. Accelerating progress in children’s online safety and protection from violence - including cyber-bullying and peer violence - is a top priority of the mandate of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais. Indeed, this was the subject of a thematic study published within her mandate, Releasing Children's Potential and Minimizing Risks - ICTs, the Internet and Violence against Children. Click here to download the publication.


“Children are digital citizens and it is crucial to safeguard their rights in the cyberspace. It is urgent to strike a balance between the enormous opportunities afforded by the internet and ICTs, to prevent the harm that can arise from their use”, said SRSG-VAC Santos Pais. “To achieve this important balance, let us promote a multifaceted, safe, inclusive and empowering digital agenda that releases children’s potential and effectively detects and addresses abuse. Let us ensure that children’s natural curiosity, creativity, sense of innovation and freedom to explore and learn online are preserved, while assuring their effective protection from online violence.”


ICTs and the internet offer children new and exciting means of enhancing knowledge and skills, experiencing creative research and cultural activities, engaging in play, socialization, and entertainment. The internet opens avenues for children to learn about their rights and about ways of securing their protection. Increasingly, the internet is the means children choose to become informed in real time and empowered to act – including when they mobilize campaigns to prevent bullying and cyber bullying, when they seek advice from child helplines, when they access the office of an Ombuds for Children, and when reporting incidents of violence or asking for help and assistance.


However, alongside this potential, there are also associated risks. Indeed, children can be exposed to harmful information; groomed by potential predators; and, subjected to exploitation and abuse, including through the production and distribution of child abuse images or live web streaming. In some cases, including cyber-bullying, children’s own conduct may harm others and represent a risk to themselves. More and more children, at an increasingly younger age, have access to the internet. Indeed, one in three Internet users are children and adolescents under the age of 18.


Thirty years ago, the World Wide Web was created in the same year that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted. By working closely together with partners from around the world, the Office of the SRSG-VAC continues to put children’s rights - including their right to protection from all forms of violence - at the heart of the digital environment in which children increasingly engage.


“Ending all forms of violence against children, including online violence, abuse and exploitation, is crucial to safeguarding children’s rights and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG target 16.2,” said SRSG-VAC Santos Pais. “Many children are as much growing up online as they are growing up offline. For them, no incident of violence is virtual. But violence is not inevitable. Children are uniquely placed experts to help find solutions to make the internet a safer place. It is crucial to inform and empower them to identify and prevent potential risks, to seek advice and report abuse. And it is essential to listen to their views and experience to ensure safety in the cyberspace. Every child has the right to grow up safe and protected so they can develop to their full potential.”