General comment No. 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment
General comment No. 25 - Chapter I: Introduction and chapter II: Objective
The children consulted for the present general comment reported that digital technologies were vital to their current lives and to their future: “By the means of digital technology, we can get information from all around the world”; “[Digital technology] introduced me to major aspects of how I identify myself”; “When you are sad, the Internet can help you [to] see something that brings you joy”.
The digital environment is constantly evolving and expanding, encompassing information and communications technologies, including digital networks, content, services and applications, connected devices and environments, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, automated systems, algorithms and data analytics, biometrics and implant technology.
The digital environment is becoming increasingly important across most aspects of children’s lives, including during times of crisis, as societal functions, including education, government services and commerce, progressively come to rely upon digital technologies. It affords new opportunities for the realization of children’s rights, but also poses the risks of their violation or abuse. During consultations, children expressed the view that the digital environment should support, promote and protect their safe and equitable engagement: “We would like the government, technology companies and teachers to help us [to] manage untrustworthy information online.”; “I would like to obtain clarity about what really happens with my data … Why collect it? How is it being collected?”; “I am … worried about my data being shared”.
The rights of every child must be respected, protected and fulfilled in the digital environment. Innovations in digital technologies affect children’s lives and their rights in ways that are wide-ranging and interdependent, even where children do not themselves access the Internet. Meaningful access to digital technologies can support children to realize the full range of their civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights. However, if digital inclusion is not achieved, existing inequalities are likely to increase, and new ones may arise.
The present general comment draws on the Committee’s experience in reviewing States parties’ reports, its day of general discussion on digital media and children’s rights, the jurisprudence of the human rights treaty bodies, the recommendations of the Human Rights Council and the special procedures of the Council, two rounds of consultations with States, experts and other stakeholders on the concept note and advanced draft and an international consultation with 709 children living in a wide variety of circumstances in 28 countries in several regions.
The present general comment should be read in conjunction with other relevant general comments of the Committee and its guidelines regarding the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
In the present general comment, the Committee explains how States parties should implement the Convention in relation to the digital environment and provides guidance on relevant legislative, policy and other measures to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the Convention and the Optional Protocols thereto in the light of the opportunities, risks and challenges in promoting, respecting, protecting and fulfilling all children’s rights in the digital environment.
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