Today on Universal Children's Day, 20 November, ChildFund releases the finding of its global survey of children giving their views and insights into where children believe they are at risk.
A staggering 80 per cent of Kiwi kids believe they are at risk of abuse or mistreatment online – one of the highest proportions in the developed world.
The finding emerged from ChildFund Alliance’s sixth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey, one of the world’s most comprehensive polls of children’s views.
This year 661 young Kiwis were among the 5,805 ten- to twelve-year-olds who shared their thoughts on keeping children safe from harm in support of ChildFund Alliance’s Free from Violence and Exploitation campaign.
The survey asked where children believed they may be at risk of physical or emotional abuse or mistreatment, giving several multi-choice options.
The most popular response among young New Zealanders was ‘online’, selected by four out of five respondents (80 per cent) – the fourth highest proportion out of the 44 countries ChildFund surveyed.
The only places where a higher percentage of children saw the Internet as unsafe were Sweden (84%), Australia (85%) and France (87%).
“It’s an astonishing figure; our kids are all too aware of the dangers on the Web,” says ChildFund New Zealand Chief Executive Paul Brown.
“The Internet’s become a part of many children’s daily lives, and in many cases they’re required to use tablets and apps to complete school work, but it’s not necessarily an environment they feel safe navigating.”
Brown says that while it’s reassuring that children are aware of the very real risks of being online, the finding also highlights how important it is to ask questions and listen to our children in order to better protect them.
“By involving children in these sometimes difficult conversations, we as parents and caregivers can take the necessary action to make the world a safer place for them.”
A similar proportion of New Zealand children are also wary of the dangers of walking alone (81%).
Home is where the hurt is, according to half of Kiwi kids
While parents and caregivers may take comfort in knowing that young Kiwis are aware of online dangers, some may be surprised to learn that half also identified ‘home’ as a place where children may be at risk of abuse or mistreatment.
The proportion was higher than for children globally (42 per cent) and significantly higher than the overall proportion for children in developed countries (28 per cent).
“This raises some serious red flags,” says Brown. “We expect home to be a haven; the one place we’re guaranteed safety and protection. To think that half of Kiwi kids believe a home has the potential to be the opposite for children – a place of danger – is heart-breaking.”
When asked why adults mistreat children, 67 per cent of young New Zealanders answered ‘punishment’, and 52 per cent selected ‘because they were victims of abuse themselves’.
The survey also asked children what they thought adults could do to protect children from harm: the majority said it was as simple as listening to what children have to say.
“That’s really what ChildFund and Small Voices, Big Dreams are about – giving young people a voice,” says Brown.
“Whether we’re listening to a child in Africa whose basic needs for survival aren’t being met, or a Kiwi kid feeling threatened by cyberbullies; the suffering and struggles of all children are important to us. It’s about genuinely listening to them and acting upon their suggestions.”
ChildFund’s Free from Violence and Exploitation campaign, of which the survey feeds into, recently celebrated a major breakthrough when world leaders set targets for eliminating child harm as part of the new UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
ChildFund had campaigned for the move since 2012, submitting a petition signed by more than 680,000 people along with reports featuring the voices and views of children worldwide.
The Free from Violence and Exploitation campaign is far from over, with ChildFund Alliance planning to create child-led groups that will hold their own countries accountable for meeting the Global Goals, ensuring child protection remains a priority for everyone.
For more details on New Zealand children's views please email [email protected]