In a recent survey of one million young people, UNICEF found that over 70 percent globally are victims of online violence, cyber-bullying and digital harassment, a UN statement said late on Tuesday.
“Concerted action [is needed] to tackle and prevent this form of violence,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said on the occasion of Safer Internet Day.
UNICEF did the poll among young people age 15-24 in more than 160 countries.
It found that income level did not prevent young people from using the Internet, saying: “It has become a mainstay of youth.”
“Half of the world’s total population, regardless of age, is online, which brings increased risks,” she said.
Quoting the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the statement said 94 percent of young people age 15-24 in developed countries are online.
Fore said that UNICEF heard from children and young people from around the globe saying: “The Internet has become a kindness desert.”
The online harassment triggered a global student-led trend of #ENDviolence Youth Talks, she noted.
“In the end, kindness stood out as one of the most powerful means to prevent bullying and cyberbullying ... That’s why this Safer Internet Day, UNICEF is inviting everyone, young and old, to be kind online, and calling for greater action to make the Internet a safer place for everyone,” Fore said.
Data released by UNESCO said that the proportion of children and adolescents affected by cyber-bullying ranges from 5 percent to 21 percent, with girls at higher risk than boys, the UN statement noted.
“Cyber-bullying can cause profound harm as it can quickly reach a wide audience, and can remain accessible online indefinitely, virtually ‘following’ its victims online for life,” the UNICEF chief said.
“Victims of cyber-bullying are more likely to use abuse drugs and alcohol, skip school, receive poor grades and experience low self-esteem and health problems. In extreme situations, it has even led to suicide,” she added.