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.
In all areas of life, both online and offline, children must be protected from any form of violence, abuse, negligence and mistreatment. Along with guidelines and laws that serve the purpose of protecting children, appropriate technical provisions must be implemented, while empowering children for self-protection in the digital world (UN-CRC Art. 3). Protection and safety in the digital world arises from a mix of different instruments and the children’s empowerment for self-protection. It is the duty of parents and pedagogues in educational institutions to promote the empowerment of children, while governments have to provide the legal framework and preconditions. This interplay is described in the model of Intelligent Risk Management. The model constitutes the different strategic goals of protection, based on the development along the child and adolescent phases and, with increasing age of the children, focuses on the growing ability to cope with risks.