Child Protection and Children’s Rights in the Digital World
Since the enactment of the UN-Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, our world has changed in manifold ways - and with it the living environment of children. It is therefore important to take a closer look at the guidelines with regard to the change in society due to digitisation.
A consistent understanding of the terms “child” and “digital world” is required for analysing the implications of digitisation on the living environment of children.
According to the UN-Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child means any person under the age of 18 years old. We understand the term digital environment as more than just the internet. It encompasses the interaction of an evolving offer of connected digital services (content, software and applications) from commercial, public and other providers. This includes all computing and digitally networked technologies and services, often referred to as ICTs, the Internet, the World Wide Web, mobile devices and networks, online, “apps”, social media platforms, electronic databases, ‘big data,’ ‘Internet of Things’, ‘information society services’, the media environment, online gaming, and any developments resulting in access to or services for digital environment.
In consideration of the digitisation of children’s living environment, we focus on the following six areas of rights: Access, Freedom of Expression and Information, Assembly and Association, Participation and Play, Privacy and Data Protection, Education and Digital Literacy, Protection and Safety - taking into account international Human Rights Conventions, like the UN-Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Children have the right to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly. (UN-CRC Art. 15) This right also has to be ensured/ guaranteed, where the public sphere has expanded into the digital world, i.e. through social networking services and other forms of assembly in the digital world.
The right to play is important for developing social skills and growing up healthy. The digital world must be designed as a safe and appropriate place for exercising this right. (UN-CRC Art. 31)
Digitisation has broadened the possibilities for children to take part actively in dissemination of information, opinions and ideas and provides huge potential, especially with regard to democratic co-determination. Information can be provided, spread, publicly discussed and commented on very quickly anywhere.