Our Rights in a Digital World - Report on children’s perspective on their rights in the digital worldMarlene Fasolt, Stiftung 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 "respect for the views of the child" are to be understood in the digital environment. A special section deals with parental rights and the evolving 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.
Children’s Rights in FocusStiftung Digitale Chancen
Today is International Children's Rights Day, a good opportunity to reflect on the key messages of the Internet Governance Forum 2020 regarding children's rights.
Chances and risks of digitisation for children and young people have become apparent in the Covid19 pandemic as if through a magnifying glass. During the lockdown phases, children and young people were and are able to maintain their social contacts via digital media and to realise their rights to access information and freedom of expression. At the same time, they are also more exposed to risks due to increased online use. According to Interpol, during the pandemic there has been a significant increase in chat communication relating to child sexual abuse. This involves grooming, i.e. the direct initiation of contact with children with the intention of sexual abuse, but also the exchange of abuse strategies in forums of paedo-criminals, as in the session Protection or Participation? Child Rights in a New Normal was explained. At the same time, during the pandemic, children have experienced how important the Internet is for their access to information, education, leisure and participation opportunities and for their self-organisation. Digitisation forms the basis for an increased perception of children's rights. The future vision of a self-organised movement of children using digital media to stand up together for their rights worldwide, which was the conclusion of the session, can become reality if platforms such as the Internet Governance Forum create the conditions for this by putting the realisation of children's rights on their agenda.
In the joint session of the Dynamic Coalitions DCs Main Session: Socio-economic recovery after the Covid19 crisis - Dynamic Coalitions' role also emphasised the high potential of digitisation for the realisation of human rights and for ensuring non-discriminatory access for all and more equal opportunities in the course of socio-economic recovery after the pandemic.
The increasing importance of social media was the focus of the session The Revolution won't be Televised, but Social Mediatised? This session focused on the responsibility of platform providers with regard to the dissemination of disinformation and the extent to which social participation can be enhanced by engagement with and in digital media. The risk of commercialisation of childhood was discussed under the heading New profiles of marketing aimed at children in the Internet . The development of services and platforms that address children and young people with new strategies makes it increasingly difficult to protect them from economic exploitation in the digital environment. The participants emphasised that the teaching of media competence is not sufficient to guarantee the requirements of Art. 32 of the UN-CRC.
The session Children's Rights and Participation in Data Governance focused on Articles 28 and 29 of the UN-CRC and the right to education enshrined therein. One of the demands here was to use the phase of the pandemic also for a scientific analysis of the effects of digital education formats in order to develop strategies that make the potential of digital media usable for educational processes.
The Main Session on Digital Cooperation, which dealt with the implementation of the UN Secretary-General's roadmap, also emphasised the need to combat the digital divide, which has once again become clearly visible through the pandemic, by all means and to anchor access to digital media as a human right. The session Setting childrens rights in the internet governance agenda also dealt with the task of policymakers to create a regulatory framework. Again, the need for global cooperation and a comprehensive database on access and use behaviour was emphasised in order to develop and implement appropriate measures.
In summary, the rights of children in the triangle of protection, provision and participation have received much attention in the context of Internet governance. Further developing this approach is not only the task of the United Nations bodies, but also of national governments and actors from business, science and civil society. The General Comment on the UN Commission on the Rights of the Child on the rights of children in the digital environment, the draft version of which was published for consultation by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in August 2020, provides an excellent basis for this.For further discussion you are cordially invited to participate in the Open Microphone and Feedback-Session at the conclusion of the Internet Governance Forum 2020 on Wednesday, 25 November 2.00 - 4.00 pm UTC.