Only Spain scored higher than Australia on the index, which takes into consideration six measures, including education and exposure to online risks.
The index, created by international think tank the DQ Institute (DQI), has Australia just 0.4 points behind Spain and 7 points clear of third-place Malaysia.
“That Australia is the second safest country we surveyed for children online will come as welcome news to Australian parents,” DQI founder Dr Yuhyun Park said.
“But no nation, no matter where they are ranked, has cause for complacency. What we are witnessing is a global cyber-pandemic with high exposure to multiple forms of online risks threatening children across all the countries we surveyed.”
DQI found that almost two thirds of online children between the ages of eight and 12 are exposed to one or more forms of ‘cyber risk’.
These risks include cyberbullying, violent and sexual content, social media disorders and dangerous offline meetings with strangers.
DQI found that owning a mobile phone increases overall risks for young people by around 20 per cent, while being highly active on social media and gaming increases risks by around 40 per cent.
145,426 children and adolescents in 30 countries were included in the survey.
“Everyone in society has a role to play in turning this around,” Park said.
“Businesses, from social media and telecommunications to hardware and gaming companies, should make child online safety a core business principle. Companies should also partner with schools to help tackle cyberbullying. And governments must back stronger digital education. Most importantly, parents must be aware that they can make changes and reduce online harm.
“Helping children discipline their digital use from an early age is a necessary starting point for mitigating cyber risks. Primary schools also must teach students digital citizenship as part of their standard curriculum.
“Through the index, Australia and other countries will be able to identify areas of improvement through global benchmarking and then better focus on deploying initiatives for their children’s online safety.”
Thirty-four per cent of Australian 13-19 years olds surveyed by DQI had experienced unwelcome sexual contact online.
Australia performed above the average level on five of the six measures included in the study, performing worst on ‘guidance and education’, which assesses protective support and direction from parents and schools.
The survey also found that Australians between the ages of eight and 19 spend 38 hours a week looking at screens.
DQI released the global index today to mark Safer Internet Day 2020.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant told ABC Radio about some of the resources offered by her office.
“We’ve researched both young people and parents across Australia and 94 per cent of Australian parents think their children’s online safety is incredibly important, but less than half feel confident in dealing with the online safety issues,” Grant said.
“So as part of Safer Internet Day, we’re giving Australian parents a range of tools and scripts, frankly, about how you start the chat when you’re handing over a digital device to your child.”
Grant said that it’s important to ‘lay the groundwork’ by having conversations about online safety early.
“As a parent, I want to know who you’re talking to and what games you’re playing, all in the interest of keeping you safe. So starting those conversations early and often is really important and then knowing how to evolve those conversations as the child matures and as they may encounter different threats.”
DQI has collaborated with over 100 organisations worldwide as part of the ‘#DQEveryChild’ movement.
“We’ve been supporting this important work ever since the #DQEveryChild global movement was launched at the Global Education & Skills Forum in 2017,” Global Teacher Prize and Varkey Foundation founder Sunny Varkey said.
“The Child Online Safety Index that has emerged as a result is a vital piece of research and my fervent hope is that policy makers around the world will act upon its findings.”