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Children and online risks: global statistics

Cybercrime, such as phishing and cyberbullying, is all too common in our online lives, and kids are no exception. Parents could urge their children to stay away from the internet and online games entirely, but that isn’t realistic and isn’t an option anymore. The alternative? Become aware of the dangers of cybercrime by educating yourself and your children.

Roughly 1bln school children worldwide were relocated online for remote learning. According to Unicef, “...online platforms were the most used means by the governments to deliver education while schools remain closed, with 83% of countries [globally] using this method.” Therefore it’s no surprise that cyber crime against children increased as well. Cybercriminals can do this via phishing to get personal information and profit from the stolen data. Let’s explore relevant statistics.

Cybercrime against children year over year

Global data breach heat map
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Cybercrime against children is surging. According to the FBI Internet Crime Center Report (2015-2020), in 2020 the crime against children increased by 144% compared to 2019 - that’s 8 children per day facing online exploitation.

In comparison, from 2014 to 2019, the online crime rate was pretty steady, varying only by 5-9%. Overall, from 2015 to 2020, the FBI got close to 10K online crime-against-children complaints, totaling more than $2M in financial losses.

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Children’s exposure to online risks

According to a DQ Institute 2020 survey that covers 63% of the global population, 6 out of 10 children ages 8-12, are exposed online to various cyber risks. In addition, 1 in 2 children encounter cyberbullying and close to one third experienced other cyber threats such as phishing or hacking.

To put it in perspective, around 12M children are exposed to cyber risks, 9M are affected by cyberbullying, and 6M experienced cyber threats in the US only.

According to a DQ Institute study, children's exposure to cyberbullying and other cyber threats vary from country to country. Online risk exposure indicator includes factors such as:

  • The frequency of involvement with cyberbullying or cyber-victimization activities.
  • The percentage of children and adolescents affected by cyberbullying or cyber threat.
  • The number of cyber threats experienced.
Global data breach heat map
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This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 International License - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

Countries with low online risk exposure

Children in nations with the lowest online presence are the least likely to be cyberbullied or fall victim to cyberdangers such as phishing or even hacking. For example, Japan is the country where children are least exposed to various online threats. That also goes for kids in Italy, Spain, Ecuador, and India. All these countries are considered as very low online risk exposure level countries.

Countries with high-online risk exposure

Thailand, on the other hand, has the highest numbers of cyberbullying and cyber threats in the world, classifying it as a country with very high online risk exposure for children. Thailand is followed by the Philippines and Turkey making them the top 3 countries with the highest online risk exposure levels.

In comparison, children in Colombia and Mexico become victims of cyberbullying or phishing less often but are considered to be also living in a high online risk exposure country.

Children’s ability to cope with online risks

Children with the best online risk management skills live in:

1IndiaIndia
2MalaysiaMalaysia
3JapanJapan
4AustraliaAustralia
5New ZealandNew Zealand

Children with the poorest online risk management skills live in:

30Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia
29UruguayUruguay
28ThailandThailand
27NepalNepal
26OmanOman
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When it comes to children's exposure to internet crimes, it's important to consider their ability to cope with them. The indicator for children's ability to work around online risks considers the following factors:

  • Their knowledge about the impact of cybersecurity and cyberbullying.
  • Their ability to detect and deal with cyberthreats (e.g. phishing, spam).
  • Their skills to regulate emotions and to deal with cyberbullying incidents.
  • Their capacity to make strong passwords and keep them safe.

Link to the full list of analyzed countries can be found in the Sources section.

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Comparing online risk management in countries worldwide

Countries with the best online risk management practices

Children in Asia-Pacific countries (India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand) have the strongest online risk management skills. India tops the list due to children's skills to cope with cyberbullying and its consequences.

Additionally, compared to the global average, India has 30% stronger online safety education programs (global score 52/100 vs. India’s score - 68/100). The online safety education score by DQ Institute represents the ratio of children who are taught online safety education at school and the frequency of said education.

Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand have even stronger online safety education programs than India (scoring 84, 71, and 75 out of 100 respectively). Although these countries are considered to have good economies, on a global scale, high- and high-upper-middle-income countries do not necessarily invest more in children’s online safety education than the rest of the world.

Countries with the worst online risk management practices

Conversely, children in Thailand are not only exposed to online risks the most among the analyzed countries, but they also don’t have the skills to deal with cyberbullying or other cyberthreats. Thailand ranks third from the bottom according to children’s online risk management skills level, followed by Nepal and Oman.

It is worth mentioning that children in Oman (a high-income country) are exposed to cyberbullying quite frequently but don’t receive proper online safety education as one would think.

High-income countries like Saudi Arabia and Uruguay have basically non-existent online safety education, scoring 6.5 and 2 out of 100 respectively. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that children in Saudi Arabia and Uruguay are the least prepared to deal with online threats.

Countries’ income level impact on online safety education

Interestingly, low- and lower-middle-income countries have better online safety education (average score 55/100). While high- and high-upper-middle-income countries have lower levels of education (average score 51/100).

Role of online safety education

Overall, with few exceptions such as Japan and South Korea (high score in online risk management, but low in online safety education), online safety education seems to play an important role in children's ability to cope with cyberbullying, phishing, and other cyberthreats.

Overview

Through this study, we can see that the importance of educating children about cyberthreats plays a massive role in them knowing how to deal with any problems that may arise online.

Every child is an individual. They all seek different things out of their online experience, and they all handle danger differently. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to discussing online safety with your children. Instead, you must discover ways to converse with them and assist them in understanding what to do. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

Educate young childrenEducate young children

Use child-friendly educational sources like the interactive cartoon that can be found here. Tell children to avoid sharing personal information, photos, and videos online.

Set up internet rulesSet up internet rules

Adjust privacy settings and use parental controls for online games, apps, social media sites, and other websites. Keep your computer in an open area and consider setting time limits on all devices.

Discuss internet safetyDiscuss internet safety

Focus on empowering children, not scaring them when it comes to using the internet. Make sure your child knows what is safe to do online and what is not.

Build trustBuild trust

Let your child know that they can approach you with any questions or concerns. Create a trusting, respectful environment by encouraging children to tell a parent or trusted adult if they encounter a cyberthreat.

Use cybersecurity toolsUse cybersecurity tools

Use the right tools to help keep them safe (e.g., antivirus, VPN, content blocker, ad blocker, etc.). Help your child to run regular scans together with firewalls and email filters to further decrease the risks, such as ransomware.

Change passwordsChange passwords

If the password for your child's email or gaming platform gets leaked, help your child to change it immediately. Even better, use password managers to generate new passwords and avoid using weak ones.

Methodology

This study used information from the open-source Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Internet crime complaints are based on global data, but around 70% of complaints are registered in the USA. The 2015 – 2020 Internet Crime Report data was aggregated and analyzed according to overall financial losses and victim count.

To assess phishing and cyberbullying risk for children, the study used data from the open-source Child Online Safety Index (COSI) made by the DQ Institute:

1) To calculate online risk exposure score, cyberbullying and cyber threats indices were multiplied by 0.5 to weigh in. Countries were grouped into exposure levels from very low to very high. Scale was then reversed and the risk scores grouped as follows: 0-20 - very low, 21-40 - low, 41-60 - moderate, 61-80 - high, 81-100 very high. Countries that do not have data for one of the indices were not included.

2) We performed the same procedure with cyberbullying and cyber threats management indices to weigh in the online risk management score in order to analyze and rank countries where children have the best and the worst online risk management skills.

3) The online safety education index (the provision of online safety education by schools) was examined in relation to each country's economic status and children's online risk management skills level.

4) The total number of 8-12 year-old children in the US who are exposed to online risks was calculated by multiplying the total number of children of that age in the US by the ratio of children exposed to online risks found by DQ Institute survey.

Further studies on children's exposure to online crimes and risk factors are much needed. It is important to understand how various factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic background, etc. affect children's online risk management skills. Yet in this study we have focused on skills of digital literacy, therefore we refer to a non-exclusive list accounting for factors provided by DQ Institute.

Sources

Learn more about our other study on the dangers of mobile gaming.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center. (2015-2020). Internet Crime Report.
UNICEF. (2020). Education and COVID-19.
DQ Institute. (2020). COSI.
ChildStats. (2020). US children population.