ChildFund launches WEB Safe and Wise to address online risks to children


ChildFund’s WEB Safe and Wise is a global campaign focused on protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse online, while also empowering children and young people to benefit from digital connectivity.

During the last three decades, the world has seen significant progress in advancing children’s rights to survival, opportunity, and protection, as well as their right to speak on matters affecting their lives. A significant factor in improving the well-being of children and youth is digital connectivity.

Digital technology is changing childhoods, with around one in three internet users being under the age of 18.1 The digital environment has increased their access to information and learning resources and has expanded opportunities for social and civic engagement. Conversely, however, the rapid expansion in digital technologies is exposing children to an increasing range of threats to their safety and wellbeing.

More than 200,000 children go online for the first time every day, with 800 million actively using social media.2 At the same time, estimates indicate 750,000 individuals are looking to connect online with children across the globe for sexual purposes at any one time.

In many countries, even if there are measures in place to protect against online child sexual exploitation and abuse, laws and policies are often insufficient and inconsistent. This threatens children’s ability to access the positive benefits the internet offers, while also being protected from potential dangers.

WEB Safe & Wise, Creating a better digital world with children is the first campaign launched as part of ChildFund Alliance’s FY22-25 Strategic Plan, Working Together to Address Emerging Threats to Children’s Safety. This new initiative will focus on addressing the risks emerging in the digital environment, while empowering children and young people to become effective digital citizens.

“Online violence against tamariki knows no borders, whether they be living in Aotearoa or in the global communities where ChildFund works, the risks to them online are growing every day. A key focus of ChildFund’s mahi is child protection and safeguarding, and doing this in the virtual world is as important as it is in the physical world,” says Mark Collins, CEO of ChildFund New Zealand.

“ChildFund believes all children have a right to be safe online,” says Meg Gardinier, the Secretary General of ChildFund Alliance. “ChildFund members are committed to building an accessible, safe, and inclusive digital world that requires governments, public and private sectors, and families to take action. We will work in partnership with children to create a better and safer digital world.”

Our WEB Safe & Wise advocacy campaign focuses on two key outcomes:

  • Laws and policies to protect children from online child sexual exploitation and abuse are strengthened
  • Children are effective digital citizens who are equipped to participate in online civic engagement safely, ethically, and responsibly as part of their healthy development

To achieve these outcomes, ChildFund has identified a number of global policy asks that are designed to improve protections and support digital skills development and citizenship. Over the course of this initiative, we plan to work with government authorities; leaders in the tech industry and the broader digital community; and with civil society to advance these calls to action.

In addition, ChildFund has established a Child and Youth Advisory Council, comprising eight child delegates across ChildFund programs. They will develop a children’s call to action for stakeholders; participate in advocacy activities at the national, regional and global levels; and share learnings about online safety and protection from abuse and exploitation with children and youth in their own communities.

With 80 years of experience, and operations in more than 70 countries across 11 members, ChildFund is well equipped to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children.