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 studying 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 digital environment, we focus on the following six 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.
Offline and online, no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation. (UN-CRC Art. 16) For instance, the online publication of a picture without consent of the child that is depicted can be a violation of this right. The protection of the private sphere can, in the course of digitisation, only be achieved through adequate data protection on the internet and in social networks. It is necessary to guarantee that personal data, like name, address and phone number, are not collected or transferred to third parties without consent.
The child has a right to legal protection against any interference or violation of these rights. (UN-CRC Art.16)
Users need to be empowered for the execution of these rights and for self-protection, in order to be able to live a self-determined and confident life in the digital world.