Contents Foreword 1 Key messages 3 Introduction: Children in a digital world 6 U-report poll: What do adolescents and youth think of life online? 10 Chapter 1 DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY – The promise of connectivity 12 Chapter 2 DIGITAL DIVIDES – Missed opportunities 16 Chapter 3 DIGITAL DANGERS – The harms of life online 20 Chapter 4 DIGITAL CHILDHOODS – Living online 24 Chapter 5 DIGITAL PRIORITIES – Harness the good, limit the harm 28
FOREWORD 1 Foreword The State of the World’s Children 2017 is about an extraordinary subject that increasingly affects almost every aspect of life for millions of children around the world and, indeed, for us all: digital technology. As the influence of digital technology – and especially the internet – has increased, the debate about its impact has grown louder: Is it a boon to humankind, offering unlimited opportunity for communication and commerce, learning and free expression? Or is it a threat to our way of life, undermining the social fabric, even the political order, and threatening our well-being? This is an interesting but essentially academic debate. Because for better and for worse, digital technology is a fact of our lives. Irreversibly. For better: The boy living with cerebral palsy, interacting online on an equal footing with his peers, for the first time in his life his abilities more ‘visible’ than his disability. The girl who fled the violence in the Syrian Arab Republic with her family, recapturing her future guided by a teacher at the Za’atari refugee camp as she uses a digital tablet to learn. The young blogger in the Democratic Republic of the Congo using the internet to report on the lack of safe water and sanitation and other serious issues in his community. For worse: The girl who is forbidden by the rules of her family or her society to go online, missing out on the chance to learn and connect with friends. The teenager whose personal information is misused by marketers and shared online. The boy whose video game habit has taken over his life, at least according to his parents. And worse still: A boy driven nearly to suicide by cyberbullying that follows him everywhere. A 14-year-old girl whose ex-boyfriend created a social media profile featuring nude pictures he forced her to take of herself. An eight-year-old girl in the Philippines forced to perform live-stream sex acts by a neighbour who operates a child sexual abuse website.