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Cyber-Pandemic draws attention to children’s online safety

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Cyberattacks on children, also known as cyberbullying or online harassment, have become a concerning issue in the digital age. These attacks can take various forms and have serious emotional and psychological consequences for young individuals. The attacks can encompass a range of behaviors, including online harassment, cyberbullying, online threats, and the spreading of harmful or offensive content through digital means.

Kaspersky experts discovered that cybercriminals launched more than 7 million attacks on children, exploiting popular game titles in 2022. Their research shows that cyber attacks on a younger age group increased by 57 percent compared to 2021.

Recently the DQ Institute released its 2023 Child Online Safety Index (COSI), a national-level metric designed to assist countries in effectively monitoring the status of children’s online safety.

The Index found that a high percentage – nearly 70% – of children and adolescents aged 8-18 worldwide have experienced at least one cyber risk in the past year. This alarming statistic has remained virtually unchanged since the last Index in 2018, demonstrating that it is a persistent occurrence.  The Index draws upon data collected from a sample of 351,376 children spanning from 2017 to the present.

 Dr. Yuhyun Park, founder of the DQ Institute, said “We have witnessed seven years of consistently high, 70% cyber-risk exposure rates among 8-18-year-old children and youth. We now refer to this phenomenon as a ‘persistent cyber-pandemic. Today, with the fast deployment of generative AI, the metaverse, and XR-like (Extended Reality) pervasive devices, digital technology is changing children’s lives even more, yet there is minimal discussion regarding their potentially harmful effects. Global coordination action, akin to addressing climate changes, is imperative, and we can no longer delay.”

The Index introduces a four-point rating scale enabling policymakers and industry leaders to precisely identify strengths and areas for improvement in their children’s online safety initiatives and measures. According to the Index, the United Kingdom, Germany, and China were the top performers across the dimensions. Standout performers under individual pillars were:

  • Children’s Safe Use of Technology: United Kingdom and Australia
  • Family Support: India and Singapore
  • School Digital Citizenship Education: Italy and Taiwan
  • ICT Company Responsibility: Germany and France
  • Government Policy and Regulations: Canada and France
  • Technology Infrastructure: Korea and China 

 Additionally, Saudi Arabia, hosting the Global Cybersecurity Forum (GCF), demonstrated significant improvements compared to the previous year. Saudi Arabia excels in the dimensions of Children’s Safe Use of Technology, ICT Company Responsibilities, and Technology Infrastructure, while opportunities for enhancement exist in Family Support, School Digital Citizenship Education, and Government Policies and Regulations.

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