More protection, provision, and participation for children on the InternetStiftung Digitale Chancen
The new Youth Protection Act came into effect in Germany on May 1, 2021.
Providers of Internet platforms used by children and young people, must take precautionary measures to ensure better protection against interaction risks. This refers to risks potentially arising from the use of services and contact with other users. A specific precautionary measure would be safe default settings when a new user profile is created. Demanding this the new German legislation is based on the principle of "evolving capacities" in accordance with Article 5 of the UNCRC, i.e. the capacities that develop as children grow older. This allows younger children to start their online experiences in a safe environment. When they are more experienced in using the Internet and specific platforms, settings can gradually be loosened and more freedom can be granted.
However, this presupposes that parents and other adult caregivers also have the necessary media literacy and educational skills to accompany children as they navigate their way through the digital world. Age labels and descriptors for digital media content and services as prescribed under the new Youth Protection Act are intended to provide support in this regard.
In two years, the future Federal Agency for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Media (formerly BPjM) will evaluate the effectiveness of these legal regulations, with the help and participation of an advisory board that also includes young people. Acceptance for youth media protection measures is likely to increase significantly, especially among adolescents, if they themselves can participate in the development and evaluation. The new Youth Protection Act is a major step forward by strengthening the rights of children in accordance to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the basis of the 25th General Comment to the UNCRC and therefore also deserves international attention.
IGF 2021 Call for Session ProposalsMarlene Fasolt, Stiftung Digitale Chancen
The United Nations Multistakeholder Advisory Group calls for active participation in the Internet Governance Forum 2021 (IGF) program development. The IGF is an annual global multistakeholder forum for dialogue on internet governance issues. Stakeholders can submit a variety of types of sessions including workshops, open forums, lightning talks, networking sessions, and more until 26 May at 23:59 UTC. This year the IGF will take place in Katowice, Poland from the 6th to 10th of December and will be organized as a hybrid event. This means that participants can join on-site or online, which has to be considered when proposing sessions because all participants should be able to engage actively and have the same experience. This year the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) has opted for using an issue-driven approach to design the IGF 2021 programme. The goal is to work with fewer issues treated in greater depth, instead of having broad themes, like in past years. The two main focus areas this year will be (1) economic and social inclusion and human rights and (2) universal access and meaningful connectivity. There are also four cross-cutting issues including emerging regulations, environmental sustainability and climate change, inclusive Internet governance ecosystems and digital cooperation, and trust, security, and stability.
Issues relating to children’s rights are of great importance for both main focus areas. The recently published General Comment No. 25 (2021) on Children’s Rights in Relation to the Digital Environment underlines the necessity to address the issue appropriately on all levels of policy making. Also children have expressed the importance of universal and meaningful access to the internet for children across the globe and the necessity to feel included and safe in the accompanying Report “Our Rights in a Digital World”. Human rights, children’s rights and child and youth protection are all important aspects of internet governance and need to be considered in all decisions made in regard of the internet.
We strongly encourage the child rights community to participate in the programming and to submit a broad range of proposals as it was the case last year. To achieve acceptance of proposals it is particularly important to ensure the diversity in regard of regional origin, societal group, gender and age. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to submit a workshop proposal and you need support in addressing international partner organizations or in selecting speakers. We will also be happy to help you fill in the necessary information in the submission form.
More information can be found here.
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 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.