The Best of UNICEF Research (BOUR) initiative celebrates its fifth year. Once again, it showcases some of the best and most innovative pieces of research coming out of UNICEF. It reveals diversity in geography, themes and methodologies. The topics demonstrate the added value of UNICEF staff in the field identifying issues that are of relevance at national and local levels but which also have widespread application and the potential to shape the agendas of academic and policy communities. The studies demonstrate the particular capacity of UNICEF to facilitate research across multiple countries within a region, and even cross-regionally.
A number of studies in this volume focus on child protection issues – a welcome addition to research in a field for which evidence is often limited or fragmented, and where the work of UNICEF has potential to drive a research and evidence agenda with global impact. Other studies focus on children in conditions of extreme vulnerability and exploitation – where issues of appropriate methods and ethical safeguards become paramount. The situation of children with disabilities is another welcome addition to the themes covered by BOUR – highlighting its growing importance on the agenda of governments and of UNICEF.
We live in an information society, where the flow of information in the virtual environment is unprecedented. Web 2.0 platforms – and recently Web 3.0 platforms and the Internet of Things (IoT) – represent an important step forward in enhancing the lives of both adults and children everywhere, by combining greater efficiencies with a wide availability of new tools that can boost individual creativity and collective production. This new environment has exposed adults and children to fresh challenges that deserve special attention, especially those surrounding privacy. The main objective of this paper is to address the challenges posed to child privacy online and the impact that these challenges might have on other rights such as freedom of expression, access to information and public participation. To do this, the paper first analyses the current (and foreseen) threats to child privacy online and the various approaches adopted by government and/or the private sector to tackle this issue. The paper also examines whether children’s perspectives and needs are considered in international debates on technology regulation, including in regard to the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’. It then contextualizes the protection of privacy (and data protection) in relation to other fundamental rights in the online environment, arguing that in most cases this interaction is rather positive, with the enforcement of the right to privacy serving to protect other rights. The paper concludes by proposing some policy recommendations on how to better address the protection of children’s online privacy. These objectives are achieved through literature review and analysis of legal instruments.
Based on an evidence-focused literature review, the first part of this paper examines existing knowledge on how the time children spend using digital technology impacts their well-being across three dimensions; mental/psychological, social and physical. The evidence reviewed here is largely inconclusive with respect to impact on children’s physical activity, but indicates that digital technology seems to be beneficial for children’s social relationships. In terms of impact on children’s mental well-being, the most robust studies suggest that the relationship is U-shaped, where no use and excessive use can have a small negative impact on mental well-being, while moderate use can have a small positive impact. In the second part of the paper, the hypothetical idea of addiction to technology is introduced and scrutinized. This is followed by an overview of the hypothetical idea that digital technology might re-wire or hijack children’s brains; an assumption that is challenged by recent neuroscience evidence. In conclusion, considerable methodological limitations exist across the spectrum of research on the impact of digital technology on child well-being, including the majority of the studies on time use reviewed here, and those studies concerned with clinical or brain impacts. This prompts reconsideration of how research in this area is conducted. Finally, recommendations for strengthening research practices are offered.
This quarterly digest synthesizes the latest research findings in adolescent well-being over the last three months. This edition includes compelling research, resources, news and events that address the issue of adolescent health from many perspectives.
This paper develops an econometric strategy to operationalize the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF’s) conceptual framework for nutrition, estimating the effects on child stunting that additional investments in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) intervention packages have across population groups (poor and non-poor) and residence (urban and rural). Moving away from estimating single intervention marginal returns, the empirical framework is tested in Tunisia; a country with notable but uneven progress in child nutrition. A successful reduction of stunting will involve mapping the distinctive most effective intervention packages by residence and socioeconomic status, moving away from universal policies.
The rise of social protection into the limelight of social policy has opened up space for understanding how it can act as a key interface between states and citizens. This paper rethinks social protection through the lens of citizenship. It considers how the design and implementation of social protection can be shifted away from discretionary and technocratic forms, to forms which stimulate vulnerable citizens to make justice-based claims for their rights and demand accountability for the realization of those rights. It puts forward a conceptual framework for social protection with three modalities through which citizens can be engaged: as shapers and makers; as users and choosers; and as passive consumers.
Rachel Sabates-Wheeler; Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai; Nikhil Wilmink; Richard de Groot; Tayllor Spadafora
Inequality can have wide-ranging effects on communities, families and children. Income inequality (measured through the Gini index) was found to have an association with higher levels of peer violence in 35 countries (Elgar et al. 2009) and to influence the use of alcohol and drunkenness among 11- and 13-year olds (Elgar et al. 2005). On a macro level, countries with greater income inequality among children have lower levels of child well-being and higher levels of child poverty (Toczydlowska et al. 2016). More worrying still is that growing inequality reinforces the impact of socio-economic status (SES) on children’s outcomes, limiting social mobility. Concern about growing inequality features prominently on the current international development agenda. Goal 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls specifically to reduce inequality within and among countries, while the concept of ‘leaving no one behind’ reflects the spirit of greater fairness in society. But with a myriad of measures and definitions of inequality used in literature, the focus on children is often diluted. This brief contributes to this debate by presenting child-relevant distributional measures that reflect inequality of outcomes as well as opportunity for children in society, over time.