Children’s rights to privacy, safety and freedom of expression

9 Dec 2016 13:00h - 14:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

This session aimed at shedding light on the fact that the number of Internet users worldwide under the age of 18 is growing, and that there is a need for more conversation and solutions when it comes to securing  children’s rights and security online.

The session started by highlighting the Charter on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) with special emphasis on Articles 12 to 17, and 19, which address the rights of children to freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, and the right to be safeguarded and protected from violence.

The second highlight was the Agenda for Sustainable Development, which mentions children and youth as a vulnerable group whose needs to be empowered are reflected in the measures to be undertaken.

The various reports showed 1 of 3 children in the world is online, and numbers are set to grow quickly in middle and low income countries. In many parts of the world, children go online via mobile phones. Available cyber cafes do not offer regulation or oversight for children’s safety.

In terms of inequality, the main issues are connectivity and access.

Different age limits for the consent of children around the world were presented as one of the biggest challenges, along with culture as another influencing fact. Setting a definite age for defining who is a child is especially problematic when related to the cyber space.

It was suggested that the in terms of taxation, markets should impose a lower tax regime for products that are children friendly or privacy friendly.

It was noted that parents often ignore legal frameworks. However, it was pointed out that this is about legal liability and not about the user. It was stated that a legal framework is needed, but guidelines are what parents need.

Privacy by design was suggested as well.

It was stated that in Africa children connect to the Internet before their parents. As in-home wi-fi is not affordable, young people rely on mobile phones to access the Internet.

Digital literacy was emphasised as crucial for digital development in developing countries.

The existence of gender inequality was explained by Mr Arsene Tungali, Co-founder and Executive Director, Rudi International, who used an example as a vivid illustration: ‘Where in the family there is one boy and one girl, one mobile phone will easily and solely go to a boy. Not to a girl.’

It was pointed out that when it comes to age limitations, it has been shown that children as users are tricking the system, with their own parents helping them.

‘Children are exercising their rights when they use social media, regardless of the age, and regardless if they are allowed or not to do so.’, said Ms Marie Laure Lemineur, International Head of Global Programme Combating Sexual Exploitation of Children Online, ECPAT, Bangkok.

by Aida Mahmutović