How to protect kids from violence

11-year-old Ajsa is photographed in front of a laptop, with her head in her hands.

UNICEF/UN040655

 

The challenge

Violence threatens not only children’s survival and health, but also their emotional well-being and future prospects. 

Violence against children at home is commonplace across the region, with around half of all children in East and Central European and Central Asian countries experiencing violent discipline.

Surveys have found that 53 per cent of children aged 1-14 had experienced violent discipline at home in the previous month in Kazakhstan, rising to 57 per cent in Kyrgyzstan and 66 per cent among children in Roma settlements in Serbia (compared to a national average in Serbia of 43 per cent).

Child abandonment and institutionalization are also forms of violence, and children in institutions are thought to be particularly vulnerable. Research suggests that girls in care or detention are more likely than boys to become victims of sexual and physical abuse.

Violence is also found in schools. In Serbia, 69 per cent of primary school students and 74 per cent of secondary school students reported they had been exposed to at least one form of gender-based violence. There are also concerns about bullying, with almost 60 per cent of children aged 11 to 15 admitting that they had bullied others at school at least once in the previous two months.   

The risks of violence increase during emergencies that weaken the abilities of families and communities to protect children. Girls, in particular, face grave risks of gender-based violence during emergencies. 

Growing access to the Internet means new forms of violence against children.

As Internet access expands, violence against children is taking on new dimensions such as cyber-bullying and online sexual exploitation, with damaging and life-changing consequences. 

Adolescents who grow up with violence can see it is a normal part of life. Such beliefs reinforce some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence worldwide. Cultural practices, such as child marriage, also heighten the risks of violence against girls and young women. 

Family violence may also contribute to the region’s suicide rates, which are also among the highest worldwide, with very high suicide rates among young men in Kazakhstan, for example.

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