Responding to the Online Protection Needs of Disabled children

11th November 2020

WeProtect Global Alliance logo along with the DeafKidz International logo

A WeProtect Global Alliance Briefing Paper

The term disability mean different things to different people. Our perspective will depend on the meanings and feelings we attach to disability. Regrettably due to ignorance and fear, often these feelings will be negative reflecting the shame and fear of difference. These negative attitudes will focus on the child’s disability as opposed to their true personality and abilities.

For those who choose to perpetrate online abuse, a child’s or young person’s disability makes them easy prey; easy to corner, groom, stream and abuse. If as a result of your deafness or disability, you are excluded from education, you will often lack the means – the vocabulary and language – to recognise that through digital technologies, you are being abused; you will lack the means to self-represent, to self-assert and say ‘No!’. Furthermore, you lack the means to report and to disclose.

The evidence that deaf and disabled children experience endemic stigma, discrimination, abuse and exploitation is overwhelming. The evidence that they are subject to online abuse is less clear. Certainly there are some documented instances, but DeafKidz International takes the view that this is an area that the global child protection community has failed to explore and this gap in knowledge and response must be addressed.

One in three internet users worldwide is a child. At any one time, 750,000 individuals are estimated to be looking to connect with children for sexual purposes. WeProtect’s 2019 Global Threat Assessment reported that 94% of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) found online by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) contains images of children aged 13 or under; 39% were images of children 10 and under. With the WHO reporting that 15% of the world’s population ‘is living with some form of disability, with up to 20% of this population living in low resource settings’, the size of this issue cannot be underestimated. Here we have a huge grouping of deaf and disabled children and young people who will invariably have poor self-esteem and body-image. Negative attitudes also determine whether deaf and disabled learners are excluded from education and / or sexuality education. Without knowledge of sexuality and safe behaviours there is clearly an increased risk of abuse.

Commissioned by the WeProtect Global Alliance, this all new briefing paper will see DeafKidz International consult with the global disability community to ascertain their experience of online abuse. In addition, we will consult across the WeProtect membership to document what the INGO community is doing to counter this abuse.

The findings will be published in February 2021 and presented to the Alliance and other global child protection stakeholders at an accessible Webinar.

DeafKidz International wishes to access (not an exhaustive list):

Please send submissions to [email protected] and [email protected] by 30 November 2020.


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