What a Child is ToldJutta Croll, SDC
What a child is told (Was ein Kind gesagt bekommt) is the title of a poem by Bertold Brecht from 1937. It contains many sayings that you yourself may remember from your own childhood and ends with the words: "A child keeps its mouth shut". The poem is only available in German.
Today, children are raised differently, and this is also an achievement of the United Nations, which adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as a human rights treaty in 1989. The 196 states around the world that have since ratified the Convention have thus committed themselves to implementing the rights guaranteed therein for children under the age of 18. Article 44 of the UNCRC stipulates that every five years, states must submit a report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, documenting the measures they have taken to implement children’s rights and the progress they have made. These reports are reviewed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and then discussed with government representatives at a hearing in Geneva.
In 2019, the German government jointly submitted the 5th and 6th State Report, which was discussed before the Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2022. Subsequently, the Committee published its so-called Concluding Observations. The increasing importance of the digital environment for the exercise and protection of children’s rights is reflected in the prominent treatment of these in the Committee’s remarks.
Recalling its general comment No. 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment, in §21 the Committee recommends that the State party:
- Allocate sufficient technical, financial and human resources to the newly established federal agency for child and youth protection in the media and ensure that it develops regulations and safeguarding policies to protect the rights, privacy and safety of children in the digital environment and to protect them from harmful content and online risks;
- Strengthen the implementation of laws that protect children in the digital environment, including the reformed youth protection act and the act to enhance the assertion of legal rights in social media networks, such as by providing for mechanisms to prosecute violations of children’s rights in the digital environment;
- Enhance the digital literacy and skills of children, parents and teachers, including by incorporating digital literacy into school curricula
With reference to its 2019 guidelines regarding the implementation of the Optional Protocol, in §43 the Committee recommends that the State party:
- Expand the scope of the Media Youth protection Act to encompass all online applications and services where children are active and expand the definition of illegal content to the production of sexual abuse material of children between 14 and 17 years of age;
- Take all necessary measures to prevent, prosecute and eliminate the exploitation of children online and in travel, tourism and prostitution, including by: (i) requiring the digital business sector to put in place child protection standards; (ii) ensuring that Internet service providers control, block and promptly remove online sexual abuse material; (iii) encouraging travel enterprises to sign the code of conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism; (iv) undertaking awareness-raising campaigns aimed at prevention for professionals working with and for children, parents and the public at large;
- Ensure that remedies are available to all child victims of offences under the Optional Protocol, including by expanding the scope of the victim protection law to allow for victims without a regular residence status to apply for compensation.
The full concluding observations on the 5th and 6th State Reports from Germany, and thus what the German government is being told by the Children’s Rights Committee, is available for download here.