12 September 2014

Some Reflections on #DGD2014: Digital Media and Children's Rights

It has been interesting following today's Day of General Discussion (DGD) held by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, on the topic of "Digital Media and Children's Rights". You can follow the discussion which took place on twitter, by using the hashtag #DGD2014.

The discussion has just drawn to a close and here are a few, brief reflections.

The UNCRC in the Digital Age

This morning, I wrote a post and asked this question: Created in a world without social media and selfies, can the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child keep up with digital and technological issues faced by today's children?

This great tweet from EU Kids Online, of a slide from speaker, Sonia Livingstone, shows how various articles of the Convention can be effectively used to protect children and their rights with respect to digital media:

The Digital Divide 

I referred to the digital divide in my post this morning. John Carr of EPCAT spoke about this issue, saying that it is common to think about the digital divide being between the Global North and Global South, but that internet access is not equal across the North. There is less access in poorer parts of the North and there are disparities within the same country. For example, poorer people in the USA have less access to digital technologies.

The digital divide does not just occur along economic lines. Some speakers stated that certain groups are particularly excluded from access to the internet, such as girls, children with disabilities and children living in institutional care. In the closing session, it was said that digital resources should be available in all parts of the world and that universal access is a goal to work towards. States should be asked to ensure equal access to digital media, and provide free or low-cost access in all areas.

Negative Impacts of Using the Internet

Concerns were expressed by various speakers about children's privacy, their digital footprint and the fact that they may post things online during "experimental times of their lives" and that they do not realise the permanence of this, as these posts, picture and videos will then remain online.

Cyber-bullying and sexual exploitation are major issues. A moving account was given by one speaker of the terrible impact cyber bullying and harassment had on her life when she was a teenager.


The above issues all illustrate the need for protection. John Carr stated that it is important that we do not think of all children as the same. Some groups are much more vulnerable than others online. Rabi Karmacharya of One Laptop per Child said that we cannot rely on parents to protect children online. Parents may be illiterate, or may simply be at work and so are not around when children are using the internet at home. I tweeted that last quote, and got this reply from Child to Child:

This tweet from Child to Child echoed the sentiments of some of the speakers during the day, who said that children should play a key role in protecting themselves and their peers against harm and that the empowerment of children in digital media is essential to "maximise beneficial effects and minimise harm". Education in digital literacy - of children, parents, teachers and others working with and for children - will help. 

Protection versus Control

Sonia Livingstone said that protection is key, but that this cannot be a priority which is used to reduce child participation online. Other speakers emphasised the fact that "we must not confuse protection with control". One speaker highlighted the issue that many see children as "becomings" - growing into future adults - but they are "beings" and active agents in this world right now, both online and offline, and they should be part of the solution in ensuring protection online. There must be a balance between protection and the child's right to participation.


This was not an issue I had mentioned in my earlier post, but it is an important one. One speaker made the point that digital advertising has an impact on children's rights. For example, she spoke about the impact on babies' right to health in the context of online advertising and campaigns from companies selling breast milk substitutes. It would also be interesting to further explore what regulation there is, or could be, with regards to advertising aimed at under-18s using the internet.

Guide to Human Rights for Internet Users

This Guide, published by the Council of Europe was referred to by one of the speakers. It has a section dedicated to children and young people. You can find the Guide here.

All in all, it was a very interesting day, with much discussion around a very relevant topic in today's world. Many other great points were made, but those I have included above are the ones which stood out the most for me. Please do add to this, or let me know which points you felt were most interesting in the comments below. It would be great to hear your opinions!

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