Jakarta: Although millions of boys and girls worldwide have relied on the internet to play, socialize and learn during the covid-19 pandemic, spending time online can also expose them to online sexual exploitation, cyberbullying and other risks, Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore said on Tuesday.
"For children already experiencing harm or hurt – online or offline – the rise in screen time may have exacerbated their anguish," she said in a statement marking Safer Internet Day.
According to Fore, school closures, physical distancing, decreased services, and increased strain on already vulnerable families disrupted and reduced some of the protective measures available to them.
Due to the pandemic, children have seen their worlds shrink to just their homes and the screens of their computers, laptops, mobile phones or other devices.
However, the internet wasn’t built with children’s safety in mind, according to a UN-backed initiative working to eliminate online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
"At any one time, 750,000 individuals are estimated to be looking to connect with children online for sexual purposes, a challenge so large – and so complex – that no one entity can solve it alone," the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children said in supporting Safer Internet Day.
Meanwhile, more time online is leading to less outdoor activity for children, and also reduced sleep quality, increased symptoms of anxiety, and unhealthy eating habits.