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Published 20.11.20

Children’s Rights in Focus

Stiftung 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.