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Children's Rights in the Digital Sphere in Africa

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  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

On September 8, 2020, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosted a webinar organized by the Children’s Rights Unit on the occasion of the 35th Ordinary Session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). The webinar focused on children’s rights in the digital age in Africa. The discussion was held in Zoom. 

Theme: Children's rights in the digital sphere in Africa

Moderator: Dr Admark Moyo, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Panelists:

  • Professor Julia Sloth-Nielsen, University of the Western Cape
  • Avani Singh, Director, ALT Advisory
  • Afrooz Kaviani Johnson, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF
  • Maxim Murungweni, Child Helpline International as Project Coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa (VESA)

Technological advancements and access to internet have shaped the overall development of global and African economies. In the last two decades, there have been growing concerns with regards to the interaction of technology with people within human rights discourse. This discourse acknowledges the positive contributions of technology, such as those that enhance certain protections and guarantees, as well as those that facilitate human rights violations in other respects. Technological advancements and access to internet have shaped the overall development of global and African economies. In the last two decades, there have been growing concerns with regards to the interaction of technology with people within human rights discourse. This discourse acknowledges the positive contributions of technology, such as those that enhance certain protections and guarantees, as well as those that facilitate human rights violations in other respects. 

It is estimated that one in three internet users worldwide is a child (defined as a person under the age of 18 years) and that one in three children have access to internet (Livingstone 2016). Further and perhaps the most worrying statistic is that ‘the number of online activities in which children engage, the digital skills they develop and the online risks they encounter all increase as children get older’ (Livingstone, 2019). This is contrary to the common logic within the child rights discourse which posits that the capacities of children to handle complex issues evolves, and therefore vulnerability to harm decreases with age. This reality raises concerns about the protection of children in the digital sphere and the measures that states should take to address key challenges posed by children’s access to ICT devices and the internet. 

Naturally, and in light of the heightened risks, the narrative regarding the protection of the privacy rights of children in the digital era has tended towards a protectionist and reactionary approach. Internet users, regardless of age, face pronounced privacy risks, but children are more susceptible. Through engaging in online activities, their personal data is collected, either voluntarily or automatically, with little regard for the implications of sharing such personal information for their privacy in the short and long terms. Yet, these risks coexist with a need to promote children’s access to internet and technology as a necessity for their learning, development and general relevance in the 21st century and beyond. The need for an enabling regulatory legislative and policy framework for this purpose is therefore clearly evident.

Webinar: Children's Rights in the Digital Sphere in Africa
Sun, 10/31/2021 - 19:36
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