Press release

US Has Strongest Government and Industry Protections for Children Online in First-ever Global Child Online Safety Index, According to DQ Institute

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The US ranks first for social infrastructure in the DQ Institute’s 30-country Child Online Safety Index (COSI) launched today. The ranking is based on government policies and industry practices to protect children online.

Social infrastructure is one of six measures including education and exposure to cyber risks such as cyberbullying that make up the COSI. Overall, the US ranks 12th out of 30 countries surveyed for child online safety, lower than any other Western country surveyed apart from the UK. By contrast, Spain ranks first and Thailand last.

Based on a survey of 145,426 children and adolescents in 30 countries over the last three years, the COSI is the world’s first real-time measure to help nations understand their children’s online safety status. The COSI was announced by the DQ Institute as part of the #DQEveryChild global movement in collaboration with over 100 organizations including Singtel, AIS, Optus, TURKCELL, Twitter, World Economic Forum, and JA Worldwide since 2017. It is linked with DQ World assessment tools and its global database and will be automatically updated as countries progress with their child online safety and digital citizenship initiatives.

The US ranks 10th from last on Cyber Risks including cyberbullying, risky content and risky contact with strangers. Japan is ranked first by this measure and Thailand last.

Almost six in 10 (59%) American children aged 8-12 are exposed to at least one form of cyber risk including 45% who have experienced cyberbullying and 14% who are at risk of gaming disorder. Meanwhile, 32% of 13-19 year olds have experienced unwelcome sexual contact.

Compounding this exposure to online risks is the fact that the US is ranked 10th from last when it comes to Guidance and Education, assessing protective support and direction from parents and schools.

The US ranks 18th in terms of Disciplined Digital Use, taking into account excessive screen time, high social media and gaming use, and mobile phone ownership among children.

On average, 8-19 year olds in America are spending over a day and a half (37 hours) per week looking at screens – considerably longer than Japan where children spend just over 24 hours a week looking at screens.

Dr Yuhyun Park, Founder of the DQ Institute, said:

“That the US ranks higher than any other country when it comes to government policies and industry practices to protect children online will come as welcome news to American parents.

But no nation, no matter where they are ranked, has cause for complacency. What we are witnessing is a global cyber-pandemic with high exposure to multiple forms of online risks threatening children across all the countries we surveyed.

Everyone in society has a role to play in turning this around. Businesses, from social media and telecommunications to hardware and gaming companies, should make child online safety a core business principle. Companies should also partner with schools to help tackle cyberbullying. And governments must back stronger digital education. Most importantly, parents must be aware that they can make changes and reduce online harm. Helping children discipline their digital use from an early age is a necessary starting point for mitigating cyber risks. Primary schools also must teach students digital citizenship as part of their standard curriculum.

Through the index, the US and other countries will be able to identify areas of improvement through global benchmarking and then better focus on deploying initiatives for their children’s online safety.”

Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize, said:

“We’ve been supporting this important work ever since the #DQEveryChild global movement was launched at the Global Education & Skills Forum in 2017. The Child Online Safety Index that has emerged as a result is a vital piece of research and my fervent hope is that policy makers around the world will act upon its findings.”