Cryptocurrencies being used for 'made to order' online child sex abuse, warns Unicef
Paedophiles are using cryptocurrencies to enable child trafficking and 'made to order' online child sex abuse, a Unicef report has found.
The new findings by the United Nations organisation for children found that around 71pc of young people are online compared to 48pc of the entire population.
One in every three people using the internet is a child.
However, Unicef said that "too little is done to protect them from the perils of the digital world and to increase their access to safe online content" in its flagship end-of-year report.
The organisation pointed to the increasing sale and supply of child pornography images as particularly worrying.
They indicated that criminals are now capable of purchasing explicit images such as these without being traced.
"Digital networks like the Dark Web and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are enabling the worst forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking and 'made to order' online child sexual abuse," the report said.
Meanwhile, the report added that predators can more easily make contact with children online using anonymous accounts on social media or gaming profiles.
Around 33pc of children surveyed worldwide as part of the report said unwanted sexual content was their biggest dislike about the internet.
Responding to the findings, Unicef executive director Anthony Lakes said there was a serious challenge in fighting the dangers of the online world.
He explained that the use of cryptocurrencies and the Dark Web had made it much easier for criminals to conceal the trafficking of children and such explicit images.
"For better and for worse, digital technology is now an irreversible fact of our lives," Mr Lakes said.
"In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harms while maximising the benefits of the internet for every child."
Another issue with the web noted by the organisation included the increased use of mobile phones by children.
Unicef said personal phones were making it more difficult for parents to monitor what their children were getting up to online.
In its report, Unicef made a number of recommendations in order to combat the challenges.
It said children needed to be put to the forefront of any digital policy making.
"The internet was designed for adults, but it is increasingly used by children and young people - and digital technology increasingly affects their lives and futures," Mr Lake said.
"So digital policies, practices, and products should better reflect children's needs, children's perspectives and children's voices."
The report also recommended that children be taught in schools to be digitally literate to "keep them informed, safe and engaged online".
Mr Lake also said children in developing countries must have access to digital technology.
"By protecting children from the worst digital technology has to offer and expanding their access to the best, we can tip the balance for the better," he said.
African youths are the least digitally connected, with around 60pc not having access compared to only 4pc in Europe.
The report also pointed out that children were using this technology at an increasingly younger age, with results from some countries finding that children as young as 15 were just as likely to use the internet as an adult over the age of 25.