Children’s Rights in the Digital Age

Amanda Third
Delphine Bellerose
Urszula Dawkins
Emma Keltie
Kari Pihl
Publication Year:
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

In this evaluation report conducted by Young and Well in partnership with UNICEF, the authors evaluate how the lives of youth are being fundamentally transformed by the expansion of technology. The report incorporates opinions of experts, country reports, and youth interviews to underscore its major recommendations. 


A growing body of evidence from across the world is also telling us that no matter where they are from, more and more children are relying on digital tools, platforms and services to learn, engage, participate, play, innovate, work or socialise.

There are already countless examples of how – when harnessed appropriately – digital tools can help promote human development, by closing gaps in access to information, speeding up service delivery, supporting educational and health outcomes, and creating new entrepreneurship opportunities.

The power of technology to jump across borders and time zones, to join the once disparate, and to foster social connectedness, has provided the means for the children and young people of today to participate in a global society in ways previously not possible.

Sadly, there are also new or evolving risks – exposure to violence; access to inappropriate content, goods and services; concerns about excessive use; and issues of data protection and privacy.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to draw the line between offline and online, it is necessary for us to examine how this changing environment impacts the wellbeing and development of children and their rights.

Ensuring that all children are safe online requires approaches that promote digital literacy, resilience and cyber savvy. It is only in partnership that we can reach consensus on how to create a safe, open, accessible, affordable and secure digital world. Critically, children and young people’s profound insight must help inform, shape and drive this goal – which needs to focus on equity of access, safety for all, digital literacy across generations, identity and privacy, participation and civic engagement.

In April of this year, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and UNICEF co-hosted, in collaboration with PEW Internet, EU Kids Online, the Internet Society (ISOC), Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), and YouthPolicy.org, a first of its kind international ‘Digitally Connected’ symposium on children, youth, and digital media.

The symposium sought to map and explore the global state of research and practice in this field, and to facilitate sharing, discussion and collaboration among the 150 academics, practitioners, young people, activists, philanthropists, government officials, and representatives of technology companies from around the world.

The Digitally Connected symposium raised a key question that gained special relevance given the focus of the Committee on the Rights of the Child 2014 Day of General Discussion: How can we give children and young people voice in the debate that explores the impact of digital access and use and their rights? It is from this question, and a partnership between the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre and partners from the Digitally Connected Network, that this project was born. The multi-media package, of which this report is one component, brings together the perspectives of more than 140 children, aged six to 18, from 16 countries around the globe. Within this package are the rich voices of children and young people that can inform governments, UN agencies, civil society, academic, industry and others on new and innovative ways to bring the rights of children in the digital age to the fore.

Hearing the sentiments of children in eight different languages allows one truth to sound loud and clear: we need to take the necessary steps to ensure that all children can reap the opportunities of digital access, advancing their rights, while also ensuring their safety.

A digitally connected society brings with it challenges, certainly, but ones which children can be empowered to negotiate with aplomb. Any discussion focused on better understanding how the ubiquity of digital tools impacts on children’s rights, must be informed by children and young people themselves.

It is our hope that this report will be an excellent and comprehensive starting point for this important Day of General Discussion.


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