[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]
The underlying message of this workshop was that the participation of children is important for any policy to be successful. Even though nearly one-third of all Internet users are children and teenagers, very little consideration is given to them when designing for the Internet, warned Ms Daniela Beyerle (Managing Partner, Minds & Makers)
Once children are represented in the discussion of important issues, Ms Phakamile Khumalo (Coordinator, Web Rangers Project, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA)) added, those who take part become representatives of the whole child population. While reminding the participants that 35% of South Africa's population are children, Khumalo explained that to create beneficial solutions, children need to understand the adults working with them.
The representative of the Canadian Protection Authority said that concerns relating to the participation of children include parents not being equipped to deal with these issues. Khumalo underlined the importance of providing opportunities, environments, and platforms where children can share their views, and where adults will listen to them, take them seriously, and take action with them.
Khumalo added that the process of involving children must be transparent and fair, and that everything should be laid out in a way that children can understand. It should be safe, with minimal risks, relevant to children, and have their best interest at heart. The discussion should include a variety of children, as well as adults who have an understanding of child participation. The participative process should be accountable to both children and the beneficiaries. A young participant from Hong Kong highlighted that the first step needs to be to ensure that all children have access to the Internet, since only then can they express their opinions.
As a good practice, Khumalo mentioned the children's programme Bona Banna that focuses on children and ensures that their rights and opinions are taken seriously. Beyerle added with examples of three companies that have adopted a participative approach. First, Toca-BOCA that develops digital games for children and takes care that every child can design a character representing who they are or who they want to become. Second, Sesame Street, which is a good example of how to include multiracial characters and those with disabilities. Third, the Lego part of the Designing for Children's Rights (D4CR) association which released instructions for blind people on using Braille and voice instructions for building Legos.
Another example of initiatives involving child participation is the Designing for Children’s Rights Guide launched by the D4CR. Khumalo mentioned the children's monitoring project that works on empowering children to critically analyse the media, understand how children should be represented, and how to confront media platforms and children's news agencies when violations occur. She also mentioned the Web Rangers digital literacy programme that teaches young people how to stay safe online.
By Amrita Choudhury