Over half of children in Bangladesh have befriended strangers online

22 May 2019 Consultancy.asia 3 min. read
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More than half of children aged 10 to 17 in Bangladesh will befriend strangers online, according to a study conducted by local consultancy Inspira for UNICEF.

As part of its ‘Child Online Safety’ programme to directly engage and empower 400,000 Bangladeshi children in promoting a safer online environment, the UN child development and protection agency UNICEF commissioned local consultancy Inspira to conduct a survey among more than 1,200 internet users between the ages of 10 and 17 on their online behavior – with the study uncovering some worrying trends.

Among the findings, nearly six out of ten Bangladeshi children (57 percent) in the surveyed age bracket admitted to accepting friend requests from unknown people online – with that number pushing out to 70 percent for boys. The study also found that a quarter of respondents had online access from as young as the age of 11, while close to two thirds used their less supervised bedrooms as the primary point of access.

Further to this, one third of local young internet users stated that they chatted online daily, making it the most frequent online activity alongside watching videos, with Bangadeshi boys noted as having higher rates of frequent access at 63 percent compared that of girls (44 percent). Elsewhere, one tenth of respondents were said to face provocative religious messaging online, while around one third have been subjected to cyberbullying and digital harassment.

Survey finds over half of children in Bangladesh have befriended strangers online

“We want to build a safer world for children while embracing the connectivity. There is no way we can build a knowledge-based society without the internet. All of us should contribute to the efforts for making the internet safer for our children,” said Bangladesh Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar earlier this year at a stakeholders meeting hosted by Inspira to mark International Internet Safety Day.

Also in attendance, Bangladesh UNICEF country representative Edouard Beigbeder, a former deputy director at tech innovation consultancy Altran; “Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the creation of the World Wide Web, it is time for governments, families, academia and, critically, the private sector to put children and young people at the centre of digital policies,” said Beigbeder.

Billing itself as a Gen Y-led strategic research firm aiding public and private sector organisations in navigating through new-generation growth bottlenecks, Inspira’s consultants may be better placed than most in understanding young internet users in a rapidly evolving online landscape, with connectivity rates in the country noted as having increased a massive 800-fold since the turn of the millennium – from 100,000 users to 80 million.

While led by Millennials, the team at Inspira come from economics and business educational backgrounds from leading academic institutes, while tapping into a pool of veteran consultants and diverse sector experts for mentorship – arguing that in order to operate in the dynamic markets of today business leaders need to be equipped with experience as well as the youthful capacity to invent and improvise.

Related: McKinsey supports dialogue series hosted by Bangladesh Brand Forum