August 16, 2015

Why we need more research on children’s use of the Internet

It is becoming difficult to imagine a day in a teenagers’ life – in all parts of the globe – without internet access: to socialize with peers, seek information, watch videos, post photos and news updates or play games. As the internet rapidly penetrates all regions, children’s experiences worldwide are increasingly informed by their use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
The ITU estimates that by the end of 2015, 3.2 billion people will be using the internet, 2 billion of which will be in developing countries. This exponential growth is largely attributable to the rapid spread of mobile broadband technology with 3G mobile coverage reaching close to 70% of the total world population.
What implications does this have for children worldwide, particularly in the regions and countries where UNICEF works? We may see more and more children in lower income countries going online and more children accessing the internet through ‘mobile first’. We may see a digital divide growing not only between those who have access to the internet and those who do not, but also between generations: parents/grandparents/caregivers and children. We may see children’s educational experiences being hugely enhanced by access to the internet, but we may also see more children at risk of negative experiences (abuse, bullying, exploitation) because they lack guidance, support and mediation from their parents and educators who have not caught up yet with the fast pace of internet development.

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