Children’s Rights in the Digital Age
Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre
In July and August 2014, 148 children from 16 countries, speaking eight different languages, participated in workshops to share their views on their rights in the digital age.
Undertaken with the aim of communicating children’s views at the Day of General Discussion on children’s rights in the digital age, which took place on 12 September 2014, the project was a joint effort between the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and UNICEF, in partnership with the Digitally Connected Network.
In the workshops, children were asked to reflect upon the extent to which they used digital media and information and communication technologies (ICTs) in their everyday lives - their motivations, their rights, and how these might be enhanced and/or challenged. As part of the workshops, children produced their own ‘technology use timeline’ in which they outlined their digital media use and related rights. They also responded to a series of vox pop questions on the opportunities and challenges digital media present in enacting their rights, in addition to developing a creative piece, in a medium of their choice, to respond to a particular challenge or opportunity about which they felt strongly. The research team undertook both content and discourse analysis of the technology timelines, vox pop interviews and creative responses.
The research team found that access to digital media is far from evenly distributed across the globe, and certainly if we are to fully enhance children’s rights in the digital age, this needs to be addressed. Nonetheless, regardless of the country they live in, the language they speak, or their socio-economic background, if children have regular and reliable access to digital media, they tend to use it for a common set of purposes, including: social connectedness, access to information, education, self-expression and creativity, and entertainment.
Further, when children don’t have access to the latest technologies, they develop innovative workarounds and use the available technologies with high degrees of inventiveness and efficacy. This confirms that ultimately, digital media and ICTs are only as powerful as the ideas, ideals and efforts that drive them.
Although children are concerned about how their digital media practices might negatively impact upon their rights, children overwhelmingly experience digital media as a powerful and positive influence in their everyday lives. Children see digital media as crucial to their rights to information, education and participation. By engaging with digital media, they learn new skills and develop their talents; they become informed citizens of the world who can contribute meaningfully to their communities; and they foster friendships, family ties and a sense of community and belonging. These things are important to their resilience and wellbeing.
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