Young people and children are at risk of sexual exploitation and cyber-bullying, a new report by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has said.
The State of the World's Children 2017: Children in a Digital World report estimates that one in three Internet users today is a child, thanks to the proliferation of digital technologies like cell phones, computers, and tablets.
Teenagers now spend an average of 18 hours online each week. As such, Unicef wants governments and the private sector to keep up with the game-changing pace of digital technologies to protect children from the harm posed by unsupervised access to the Internet.
"Information and communications technologies are intensifying traditional childhood risks, such as bullying, and fuelling new forms of child abuse and exploitation, such as 'made-to-order' child sexual abuse material and live streaming of child sexual abuse," says the report.
The report presents Unicef's first comprehensive look at ways in which digital technology is affecting children's lives and life chances.
"For better and for worse, digital technology is now an irreversible fact of our lives," said Unicef executive director Anthony Lake.
The report also highlights digital divides and explores current debates about the impact of the Internet and social media on children's safety and wellbeing.
According to the report, young people are the most connected age group. Worldwide, they have a 71 per cent presence online compared with 48 per cent of the total population.
However, African youth are the least connected, with around three out of five not online, compared with just one in 25 in Europe. About 56 per cent of all websites are in English and many children cannot find content they understand or that is culturally relevant.