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The moderator, Ms Marie-Claire Lemineur of ECPACT International introduced the session giving the objective of the workshop as how to ensure that children are not exploited through the online games they play and to ensure their rights are protected especially in their use of online products.
The moderator started by posing the question to the panellists as to why it is important to discuss the online – screen time exposure of the Internet used by children.
According to Ms Jutta Croll of Children’s-Rights Digital, children have always been exposed to screens one way or the other, even through television. She is, though, concerned about the Internet exposure, since it is often another person behind the screen the children interact with and these persons can influence the child to perform certain harmful activities. It is important to discuss the topic because it also serves as a wakeup call for the private sector to develop online games factoring the concerns that people have in order for them to improve the technologies to affect children positively
Mr John Carr, eNACSO, was of the view that children spending most of their time behind the screen playing online games are a source of worry for their parents. The children have little time to study or do other things and their academic work is affected because they go to school tired.
The moderator then posed the second question as to whether there is a right amount of the Internet exposure for children.
Mr Patrick Mead of Dubit Limited, UK was of the view that the amount of time really does not matter, as far as the time online is providing value for the child’s development. He said that his company is driven by that fact and that they are striving to develop products that will provide benefit to the child’s wellbeing.
The issue of whether overexposure to screens poses a health issue was raised as a follow-up by the moderator.
This follow-up question prompted extensive discussions and even contributions from the audience. Some were making references to a research that suggested children’s exposure to fast-moving images on their screens has negative impacts on the brain development.
The final remark of the workshop came from Mr Maarten Botterman, Head of the Dynamic Coalition on the Internet of Things and Director on the Board of ICANN. In his view, children have the right to be protected but they also have the right to freedom of expression, as well as other rights that are today fostered through the digital media. He also believes that a multi-stakeholder approach must be adopted to ensure that children are protected whilst their rights are also respected. There should be co-operation between parents and the companies that develop the products.
The meeting ended after an announcement by the Dynamic Coalition to the audience about a launch of a tool available at https://smarterinternet.org developed to enable children to come up with their own issues, as well as to protect their safety online.
Reported by Jacob Odame-Baiden