Children’s Rights in The Digital World

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is currently drafting a general comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment. The document falls under the Rights of the Child – the most ratified human rights treaty in history.

Two weeks ago a first draft general comment on Children’s Rights in relation to the Digital World was released. The 20 pages document is an explicit confirmation that children’s rights do exist in the digital world.

Children are a Major Presence in the Digital World

Although the digital environment was not originally designed for children, they occupy the digital space along with adults.

Globally one third of all internet users are children

In the Global south the numbers could be even higher, and in the EU 90 million internet users are children. That is one in five of all users meaning that families and children are a major and persistent presence in the world of digital technology.

Seen in this light this principle of the best interest of the child has a special importance in relation to the digital environment. States shall ensure that in all decision-making regarding the provision, regulation, design and management of the digital environment that may impact children’s rights, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration as it is stated in The Convention of the Rights of  the Child. 

A Document Well Worth Reading

The full draft general document consists of 129 articles varying in topics and themes. Some are about Commercial advertising and marketing: 

States should ensure that advertising and marketing are age appropriate and all forms of commercially driven content are clearly distinguished from other content” (article 41)

And:

States should prohibit by law the targeting of children of any age for commercial purposes on the basis of a digital record of their actual or inferred characteristics. Neuromarketing of child-directed products, applications and services should also be prohibited” (article 42)

The words data ethics is used once.Here states are asked to demand from businesses that they adhere to the highest standards of ethics, privacy and safety:

States should require businesses that impact on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment to establish and implement regulatory frameworks, industry codes and terms of services that adhere to the highest standards of ethics, privacy and safety into the design, engineering, development, operation, distribution and marketing of their technological products and services. States should also require businesses to maintain high standards of transparency and accountability, and encourage them to take measures to innovate in the best interests of children.” (article 39).

The topic of children’s right to privacy takes up almost 2 full pages out of 20. Both these 11 articles plus the remaining 118 articles are well worth a good read.

About the Public Consulation

Anyone interested in participating in the global, public consultation can do that since the The Committee invites all interested stakeholders to comment on its draft general comment here.

After due consideration of inputs provided, the Committee will decide on the contents of the final version of the general comment. Comments are welcome until 15 November 2020 

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