Australian children blame drugs, alcohol and the internet for child abuse

10-year-old Jae from Australia says: "We should be listened to because we have great ideas too, and we have feelings and rights. Kids shouldn't be hurt. No one should be hurt, we should just be nice to each other."

Photo: Taking part in ChildFund's sixth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey, 10-year-old Jae from Australia says: "We should be listened to because we have great ideas too, and we have feelings and rights. Kids shouldn't be hurt. No one should be hurt, we should just be nice to each other."

Sydney, Australia, 20 November 2015: Drugs, alcohol and the internet have been named by Australian children as the top risk factors leading to child abuse, according to a new global survey of almost 6,000 children by international aid group ChildFund Alliance.

The sixth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams Survey, one of the largest global polls of children’s views, found that 70 per cent of Australian children blamed drugs or alcohol as a cause of adult mistreatment of children, in contrast to just 4 per cent of children globally.

In comparison, almost half of children (47%) from countries in Asia say that adults mistreat children because ‘it is the child’s fault’, while in Africa almost one in four (23%) children say adults mistreat children because ‘the family needs the money children can earn’.

ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said: “This finding from Australia echoes the 2013 survey which found that almost half (45%) of Australian children surveyed believe that alcohol is the main cause of violence in Australia.

“We know that alcohol-fuelled violence is commonly reported in the news and may also be experienced in the home. This result is a stark reminder that Australian children comprehend how alcohol and drugs can lead to abuse, and demonstrates their high degree of concern.”

Almost half of children in Australia (45%), and in all the developed countries surveyed (43%), also said that adults mistreat children because they were victims of abuse themselves. This compares with only one in four children in developing countries (26%).

Further, the survey found an overwhelming majority (85%) of Australian children said children are at risk of mistreatment and abuse online; three times higher than the global response of 28 per cent.   

When asked where children may be at risk from harm, 42 per cent of children globally named home and school, with more than half of the Australian children surveyed (55%) particularly concerned about the risks of abuse children face at school.

Children in developing countries were found to be more likely to identify the home as a place of risk (46%), compared to 28 per cent of children living in developed countries.

If given the chance to be leader of their country, children globally (42%) are united in their desire to create more rules and laws to protect children, and to punish those who abuse them. When asked about the most important thing adults can do to keep children safer from mistreatment, almost one in three Australian respondents (31%) said adults should listen to what children have to say.

Mr Spence said: “The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey findings come just months after the United Nations formally launched the Sustainable Development Goals, which commit world leaders to achieving child protection targets for the first time. We must listen and respond to children’s concerns in order to provide the most effective response.

“Our survey shows there’s much to be done to ensure every child in Australia and around the world feels safe, and has the best chance of a childhood free from violence and exploitation.” 

About the Small Voices, Big Dreams Survey

Small Voices, Big Dreams is one of the world’s largest global polls of children’s views and opinions. In 2015, 5,805 children aged 10-12 years from 44 countries took part in the survey.  This group included children from both developed and developing countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe, with 231 children from Australia taking part. The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey project was created six years ago in order to give children the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions on issues of importance to them. While the survey results highlight the differences in living standards between children in developed and developing countries, they also demonstrate the many commonalities, with the results showing that children globally often share similar hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Download the full report here.

Media enquiries: Sharon Elliott on 02 9291 3374 or Jacqui Ooi on 02 8281 3125