Digital rights of children at utmost priority: Council of Europe

Strasbourg, France: How to better respect, protect and fulfill the rights of the child in the digital environment is at the core of the new recommendation adopted by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. Building on international and European legal instruments, for action by European governments.

The digital environment shapes children’s lives in many ways, creating opportunities and risks to their well-being and enjoyment of human rights. Governments are recommended to review their legislation, policies and practices to ensure that these adequately address the full range of the rights of the child. States should also ensure that business enterprises and other key partners meet their human rights responsibilities and are held accountable in case of abuses.

Poor access to the digital environment may affect the ability of children to fully exercise their human rights. States should ensure that children have adequate, affordable and secure access to devices, connectivity and content specifically intended for children; in dedicated public places such access should be rendered free of charge. However, specific measures should be taken to protect infants from premature exposure to the digital environment.

States should guarantee the rights of the child to hold and express any views, no matter if their opinions are received favourably by the State or other stakeholders. As creators and distributors of information, children should be made aware by the States of how to exercise their right to freedom of expression in the digital environment, how to respect the rights and dignity of others, and be informed of the legitimate restrictions on the freedom of expression, for example to prevent intellectual property rights violations and counter incitement to hatred and violence. It is crucial to provide high-quality content tailor-made for children.

States should also take measures to protect the right of children to engage in play, in peaceful assembly and association, as well as to foster participation, inclusion, digital citizenship and resilience both online and offline.

Measures to strengthen digital literacy, including critical understanding by children of the digital environment, and educational resources should be promoted. Given the speed at which new technologies emerge, the guidelines also propose measures to address risks for children in the digital environment. These include regular risk assessments, use of effective systems of age verification, putting in place principles for products/services addressed to or used by children, protecting children from commercial exploitation, age-inappropriate advertising and marketing, harmful content and behaviour, sexual exploitation and abuse, grooming, online recruitment for the commission of crimes, participation in extremist political or religious movements, human trafficking, as well as from bullying, stalking and other forms of harassment.

(Courtesy: Global Governance Watch)

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