New youth protection law: PARTICIPATION of children is a top priorityJutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen
Berlin, 05.03.2021 The German Bundestag today passed the law on the reform of youth protection in the media presented by Federal Minister for Family Affairs Franziska Giffey. With the new regulations, the participation of children and young people, and thus one of the basic principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is anchored in the legislative text for the first time. Article 12 of the UNCRC, paragraph 1 states "States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child." This will be directly implemented with the new Youth Protection Act: children and young people will be represented in an advisory board that will be established at the new Federal Agency for the Protection of Minors in the Media, where they will also participate in the regular evaluation of the effectiveness of the law.
The change to the German legislation, which was last reformed in 2002, is long overdue, as the old regulations are no longer up to the challenges posed by digitalization and the changed living environments of children. The inclusion of children and young people in the shaping of contemporary youth media protection is logical, considering that they are often the early adopters of new digital applications, devices and services, and may be exposed to significant risks in some cases. These are now explicitly named in the law as follows: "Risks from communication and contact functions, from purchase functions, from gambling-like mechanisms, from mechanisms to promote excessive media usage behavior, from the disclosure of inventory and usage data to third parties without consent, and from purchase appeals that are not age-appropriate, especially through advertising references to other media." The law obliges platform providers to take precautionary measures to counter such risks. These include child-friendly terms and conditions, safe default settings for the use of services that limit the risks of use depending on age, for example, by ensuring that user profiles cannot be found by search engines, and easy-to-find information on provider-independent advice, help and reporting mechanisms. Support in this regard can be provided by the organisations of voluntary self-regulation which, together with the service providers, should develop guidelines for the implementation of such precautionary measures and also include the views of children and young people.
The Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Young People, which is being reorganized and modernized as the Federal Agency for the Protection of Minors in the Media, is tasked with bringing together the stakeholders involved in the process of dialogic regulation and ensuring consistent law enforcement against providers.
With the introduction of the new protection goal of personal integrity of children and youths as well as the promotion of orientation, the Youth Protection Act pursues a holistic approach: parents and educational staff are provided with uniform age labels and descriptors of risk potential as tools to select media applications and services that are age-appropriate. Through precautionary measures and orientation, children and young people are enabled to develop media literacy and to deal with media both independently and confidently.
The rights and the protection of children are strengthened with the new Youth Protection Act, participation and involvement are emphasised, and the process of digital transformation of society is made a bit more child-friendly. Bravo, because Germany is the first country in the world to implement the requirements of the General Comment on the Rights of Children in the Digital Environment, which the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted in February 2021, in an exemplary manner.
Our Rights in a Digital World - Report on children’s perspective on their rights in the digital worldStiftung Digitale Chancen
The 18. annual Safer Internet day takes place today, 9 February, 2021. There will be events spread all over the world under the motto “Together for a better Internet”. This year the problems of fighting fake news and counteracting violence and hate in the Internet will be the main topics and discussed extensively. We will take this as an opportunity to present young people's perspectives on their rights in the digital world, which includes freedom of expression as well as access to information and protection against violence.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child decided to develop a General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment in 2018. They held workshops in 27 countries to actively include perspectives of children and young people. 709 young people, aged 9 to 22, were invited to talk about their rights in the digital environment and express their opinions and thoughts on the topic.
They talked a lot about violence and hate on the Internet. Violence on the Internet is worse than physical violence, according to a girl from Croatia. Young people also see the spread of fake news as a major problem, which leads to people no longer knowing what to believe.
Young people feel at home in the digital world and want to be part of it, no matter where they live, but they believe that the Internet should meet their wishes and requirements better.
During the workshops the participants developed eight requirements for a safe and child-friendly Internet:
- Affordable, accessible and reliable access to devices and connectivity
- Age-appropriate content in their own language
- Action to prevent and remedy discriminatory or aggressive behavior, so that everyone can have the same access and possibilities
- Trusted and truthful information, including less inappropriate content and transparent information on how personal data is being used, from online services themselves
- Greater privacy, in particular less surveillance by commercial entities and parents
- Greater understanding from, and better digital literacy for, their parents
- Services that protect from predators and abuse
- Access to confidential and trustworthy sources of health information
One of the participants fittingly said: “The world is moving forward, and so we must do the same” and with that underlined the need to finally make the internet better and safer for kids.
The full report “Our Rights in a Digital World” can be downloaded here.
We celebrate: Children's rights take effect also in the digital world!
Children around the world have a reason to celebrate today, as the United Nations Children's Committee has adopted a General Comment on the rights of children in the digital environment. This means that all the rights granted to children by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also apply in the digital space. Access to the internet, freedom of information and expression, but also children's privacy and the right to protection from violence and abuse must be more strongly respected on the internet in the future.
The general comment begins with an explanation of how the general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child "non-discrimination", "primacy of the best interests of the child", "right to life" and "consideration of the will of the child" are to be understood in the digital environment. A special section deals with parental rights and the developing capacities of the child. After that, the individual articles of the Convention are placed in relation to the digital environment, divided into the topics "Civil rights and freedoms", "Violence against children", "Families and care", "Children with disabilities", "Health and well-being", "Education, leisure and culture" and "Special protection for children". Growing up in an everyday life shaped by digital services and devices poses challenges for children and adults, but at the same time also offers great opportunities for the realisation of children's rights. The last few months in particular have shown how, for example, the right to education can be exercised by children even under the conditions of the pandemic if the digital prerequisites are in place. The General Comment now lends just as much emphasis to this right as it does to the right to protection of minors in the media. If the amendment to the Youth Protection Act can be passed this year as planned, Germany will be one of the first countries in the world to implement the rights of children in the digital environment in accordance with the 25th General Comment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that shall be published officially by the United Nations in March 2021.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Children's Rights Committee has been working on the General Comment with the support of experts. More than 700 children from all over the world have participated and contributed their opinions. Above all, they want the internet to be accessible to children everywhere in the world so that they can use the opportunities and realise their rights in a safe digital environment. We will continue to work with commitment to make this goal come true.
A report on the children's perspective with the title “Our Rights in a Digital World” can be downloaded here.
Call for Issues for the Internet Governance Forum 2021Stiftung Digitale Chancen
From December 6th to 10th, 2021 the sixteenth United Nations Internet Governance Forum will take place in Katowice, Poland under the motto "Internet United". Internet governance is the development and application of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. These processes are carried out by co-operation of governments, businesses and civil society.
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual open conference that was initiated by the United Nations in 2006. Internet penetration worldwide, internet usage, technical aspects and regulation are all on the agenda. Human rights have played a big role from the start. This year an open call for issues again provides the opportunity to put children’s rights and child protection in the focus of the IGF.
The call is open for all stakeholders until 31 January. The form is available here.
Children’s rights in the digital environmentMarlene Fasolt, Stiftung Digitale Chancen
2020 was an extraordinary year that had a big impact on how, when and to what extent young people use digital media. Within a year the average amount of time young people (ages 15-19) spent on the Internet increased from 205 minutes to 258 minutes a day. ( JIM Study 2020). However, the school closures in Germany have also led to an increase of the use of digital technologies by many younger children as well. It is therefore essential that children’s rights are protected in the digital environment and that children and youth do know about their rights.
In 2018, the Council of Europe published guidelines to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of the child in the digital environment. Even though this topic directly affects children, the original guidelines are very difficult for children to understand. Therefore, a child-friendly version of these guidelines has now been published by the Council of Europe. This allows children and young people to learn about their own rights on the internet. In these guidelines, children’s rights are applied to the digital environment, including the right to information, the right to privacy and the right to play, and are presented in an easy-to-understand manner. In addition to this, there is also information on how decision-makers must act and what factors need to be taken into account to guarantee these rights.
These guidelines are a good resource for talking to children about their own rights. They can be downloaded in English language here.