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Published 18.12.17

Child Safety and Internet Governance - a brief look back and forward

Jutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen

Even in 2006, when the IGF itself was in its infancy, the topic of child safety and protection was on the agenda of the forum. Not necessarily as a top priority and not free of conflicts. Strategies targeted at the prevention of access to potentially harmful content for children were contentious and had its detractors from the Freedom of Speech Community. Through the years empowerment of children and youths for a safe and responsible usage of the Internet gained in importance. This was mirrored also in numerous activities to engage young people themselves in the Internet Governance Forum.

Also from the beginning the topic of human rights was anchored in the IGF events, in fact much less controversial than the topic of child safety. But only in 2015 when Jasmina Byrne, John Carr and Sonia Livingstone published their report One in Three - Internet Governance and Children’s Rights, proving that worldwide one third of Internet users are under the age of 18, the relevance of engagement of young people in Internet Governance processes related to them became evident.

Before the twelfth Internet Governance Forums was opened officially in the frame of the pre-conference on day zero a three hour debate on digital literacy education was organised by the Council of Europe.

Frank La Rue, former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech opened the discussion with the indication, that every technology advance in history is a wonderful leap forward for humanity, but every technological development brings with it its own dangers and its own pitfalls. Society would need to react to that fact. Of course there is content available that is illegal under current legislation, f. e. child pornography, and it can be censored, said Frank La Rue. But the actual challenge is to empower children and youth and those responsible for their education for a safe and responsible use of the Internet. That calls for massive capacity building campaigns for teachers.

Villano Qiriazi from the Council of Europe presented the Framework of Competencies for Democratic Culture to be established in all forms of education. Now not all young people have the opportunity to be digital citizens. And the development of relatively inexpensive technology means the digital gap is more likely to be on the side of competencies required to make best use of technology than access to technology per se. Participation and confident use of technology, so Villano Qiriazi are very much connected to values and attitudes necessary to engage in active participation. These need to be addressed in education to achieve non-discriminatory participation.

At the end of the discussion participants dealt with the ten domains defined in the Digital Citizenship Education Project of the Council of Europe to be found at Digital Citizenship Education Project.

Overall this was a good start for interesting debates at this years IGF, although there was no doubt that first and foremost empowerment of children was considered in this workshop as key to ensure their rights and their protection. Therefore it remains exciting how the debate will continue in the days to come, if the song of songs on multistakeholderism will continue to set the tone, which stakeholders will be ready to take responsibility for the safety of children and what role industry will play. More reports from the next days of the IGF will be published at News.

Further information