Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has imposed a country-wide lockdown in Nepal from 24 March 2020. As a result, schools, colleges, and offices are closed. People are staying at home and they are spending a long time using the internet. This may increase the risk of online abuse and exploitation, particularly to children and young people as child online groomers and online sex predators may contact them for abuse and exploitation. In this scenario, a study was done to gain insights upon internet users in Nepal and their online behavior.
Online Behavior of Internet Users in Nepal: Background
According to the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, 72.16 percent of people of Nepal have access to broadband internet and 55.30 percent use mobile broadband internet. Facebook is the most used social media platform in Nepal with 11 million actives. The number of Facebook users, particularly among young age groups declined globally and in Nepal. However, the number of Facebook users increased by six hundred thousand from November 2019 to April 2020.
ChildSafeNet conducted a quick survey to understand the cyber safety and online behavior of children and young people as well as their parents during the lockdown. The survey findings are expected to help ChildSafeNet and partners to design and implement cyber safety programs, particularly during the lockdown period.
The survey was conducted in all provinces of the country using online Google forms, distributed through social media platforms. The survey, self-administered by respondents started on 17 April 2020. The results of this report includes responses collected from 17 to 21 April 2020. The survey was conducted with young children, young people, and adults. Since the behavior of adults may affect children in many ways, the survey also collected information on adults’ online behavior.
In order to make the survey anonymous, no private information of respondents was collected.
A total of 1,228 respondents (648 male, 576, and 4 others) had participated in the survey.
Internet Usage and Online Behavior Data in Nepal: Findings
Recommendations from Findings
- Cyber safety awareness sessions need to be conducted for children, young people, and parents through online/virtual awareness activities through social media and video conferencing sessions.
- Video conferencing workshops on ‘Parenting in the Digital Age’ can help to equip parents with knowledge and skills to keep children and young people safe online. The workshops will help to provide guidance to parents on reducing their own screen time, learn about cyber safety, and lead by example to protect children and young people from online harms.
- Educate children, young people, and parents on the positive use of the internet & provide them information on sites and apps suitable for children. Inform them about useful and suitable sites according to their age and requirements.
- Develop simple and easy cyber safety resources in Nepali and local languages for dissemination through online media, including, but not limited to social media.
- Operate a dedicated online helpline to provide tips, advice, and support to people who experience online harms or at risk; refer to support services – police, psychologists, lawyers, social workers, etc.
- Strengthen law enforcement to report online abuses and make reporting accessible throughout the country.
- Advocate for more financial and technical resources from the government, ICT companies, and other duty-bearers to make the internet safer for children, young people and everyone.
According to the survey findings, children and young people could be at a higher risk of internet addiction, gaming addiction, and exposure to adult content. They could also be at a higher risk of online sexual abuse and exploitation. Although the government banned pornographic sites in Nepal, more than 41 percent of respondents, including children and young people said they had visited such sites. Issues like this also need to be addressed.
Detailed and thematic researches are required to develop in-depth knowledgebase to address the issue of online safety of children and young people during and after the lockdown period.