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Published 05.11.21

General comment No. 25 - Chapter IX: Children with disabilities and chapter X: Health and welfare

IX. Children with disabilities

  1. The digital environment opens new avenues for children with disabilities to engage in social relationships with their peers, access information and participate in public decision-making processes. States parties should pursue those avenues and take steps to prevent the creation of new barriers and to remove existing barriers faced by children with disabilities in relation to the digital environment.

  2. Children with different types of disabilities, including physical, intellectual, psychosocial, auditory and visual disabilities, face different barriers in accessing the digital environment, such as content in non-accessible formats, limited access to affordable assistive technologies at home, school and in the community and the prohibition of the use of digital devices in schools, health facilities and other environments. States parties should ensure that children with disabilities have access to content in accessible formats and remove policies that have a discriminatory impact on such children. They should ensure access to affordable assistive technologies, where needed, in particular for children with disabilities living in poverty, and provide awareness-raising campaigns, training and resources for children with disabilities, their families and staff in educational and other relevant settings so that they have sufficient knowledge and skills to use digital technologies effectively.

  3. States parties should promote technological innovations that meet the requirements of children with different types of disabilities and ensure that digital products and services are designed for universal accessibility so that they can be used by all children without exception and without the need for adaptation. Children with disabilities should be involved in the design and delivery of policies, products and services that affect the realization of their rights in the digital environment.

  4. Children with disabilities may be more exposed to risks, including cyberaggression and sexual exploitation and abuse, in the digital environment. States parties should identify and address the risks faced by children with disabilities, taking steps to ensure that the digital environment is safe for them, while countering the prejudice faced by children with disabilities that might lead to overprotection or exclusion. Safety information, protective strategies and public information, services and forums relating to the digital environment should be provided in accessible formats.

  5. X. Health and welfare

  6. Digital technologies can facilitate access to health services and information and improve diagnostic and treatment services for maternal, newborn, child and adolescent physical and mental health and nutrition. They also offer significant opportunities for reaching children in disadvantaged or vulnerable situations or in remote communities. In situations of public emergency or in health or humanitarian crises, access to health services and information through digital technologies may become the only option.

  7. Children reported that they valued searching online for information and support relating to health and well-being, including on physical, mental and sexual and reproductive health, puberty, sexuality and conception. Adolescents especially wanted access to free, confidential, age-appropriate and non-discriminatory mental health and sexual and reproductive health services online. States parties should ensure that children have safe, secure and confidential access to trustworthy health information and services, including psychological counselling services. Those services should limit the processing of children’s data to that which is necessary for the performance of the service and should be provided by professionals or those with appropriate training, with regulated oversight mechanisms in place. States parties should ensure that digital health products and services do not create or increase inequities in children’s access to in-person health services.

  8. States parties should encourage and invest in research and development that is focused on children’s specific health needs and that promotes positive health outcomes for children through technological advances. Digital services should be used to supplement or improve the in-person provision of health services to children. States parties should introduce or update regulation that requires providers of health technologies and services to embed children’s rights within the functionality, content and distribution thereof.

  9. States parties should regulate against known harms and proactively consider emerging research and evidence in the public health sector, to prevent the spread of misinformation and materials and services that may damage children’s mental or physical health. Measures may also be needed to prevent unhealthy engagement in digital games or social media, such as regulating against digital design that undermines children’s development and rights.

  10. States parties should encourage the use of digital technologies to promote healthy lifestyles, including physical and social activity. They should regulate targeted or age-inappropriate advertising, marketing and other relevant digital services to prevent children’s exposure to the promotion of unhealthy products, including certain food and beverages, alcohol, drugs and tobacco and other nicotine products. Such regulations relating to the digital environment should be compatible and keep pace with regulations in the offline environment.

  11. Digital technologies offer multiple opportunities for children to improve their health and well-being, when balanced with their need for rest, exercise and direct interaction with their peers, families and communities. States parties should develop guidance for children, parents, caregivers and educators regarding the importance of a healthy balance of digital and non-digital activities and sufficient rest.

  12. The whole document is available as a pdf-file here

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