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UN Committee Issues Recommendations To Protect Children’s Rights In Digital Environment

The Child Rights Committee today published its legal guidance note on how States should protect children’s rights with regard to the digital environment.

The guidance note, also known as general comment, is the result of a two-year consultation with States parties, inter-governmental organizations, civil society, national human rights institutions and children. Over 700 children and young people, aged between nine and 22 years old in 27 countries, were asked how digital technology impacts their rights, and what actions they want to see taken to protect them.

“We would like the government, technology companies and teachers to help us [to] manage untrustworthy information online,” said a group of children from Ghana. “I would like to obtain clarity about what really happens with my data,” a 16-year-old girl from Germany added.

In its general comment, the Committee emphasizes that the rights of every child must be respected, protected and fulfilled in the digital environment. Children should have access to age-appropriate and empowering digital content and information from a wide diversity of trusted sources.

“Meaningful access to digital technologies can empower children and support them to realize the full range of their civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights. If such technologies are available only for some children and not others, it will lead to greater inequalities and affect their opportunities for the future,” said Luis Pedernera, Chair of the Committee.

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The Committee, made up of 18 individual experts, recommends that States take robust legislative and administrative measures to protect children from harmful and misleading content. Children should also be protected from all forms of violence that happens in the digital environment, including child trafficking, gender-based violence, cyber-aggression, cyber-attacks and information warfare.

The Committee also emphasized the importance of protecting children’s privacy at all times. Children and their parents should be able to easily access and delete data stored by public authorities or private companies. “Any digital surveillance of children should respect their right to privacy and should never be conducted without their knowledge and informed consent,” Pedernera added.

States should also ensure that businesses respect children’s rights and prevent and remedy abuse of their rights in relation to the digital environment. “Businesses should not profile or target children for commercial purposes on the basis of the children’s digital records,” Pedernera said, “nor should they use immersive advertising and advertising in virtual environments to promote products and services to children.”

The general comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment is now available online.

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