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Published 08.02.22

Children's rights and democracy

"Fit for Democracy" is the theme of today's Safer Internet Day. Children have the right to take part in democracy, and the digital environment offers them opportunities to exercise their rights regardless of their age, their social status and the region where they are living. This is underlined in particular in Chapter VI. of General Comment No. 25 on the rights of children in the digital environment "Fundamental rights and freedoms".

Access to information is an essential prerequisite for participating in democratic decision-making processes. The digital environment offers unique opportunities for children to realise their right to access information. In this regard, information and communication media, including digital and online content, fulfil an important function. Therefore, States Parties to the United Nations are called upon by the Committee on the Rights of the Child to ensure that children have access to information in the digital environment. They should also ensure that children's right to freedom of expression in the digital environment is not restricted. This means that even measures that may be necessary to protect children, such as the use of filtering software, must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. Children should be able to make their political or other views and identities public in the digital environment without being exposed to unreasonable criticism, hostility, threats or even punishment; the States Parties should also create the conditions for this.

Fundamental rights also include freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which can be impaired in the digital environment by attempts to influence and manipulate. Media literacy and the ability to assess content are therefore important building blocks of "fitness for democracy".

The digital environment can enable children in a special way to form their political identity and to participate in social discussdiscussions. Children who participated in the drafting of the 25th General Comment say that the digital environment offers them welcome opportunities to meet, exchange and engage with peers, decision-makers and like-minded people. This is the basis for being part of a democratic society.

Fit for Democracy also means making these basic rights known to children in the digital environment, safeguarding them and making them a reality.