One in three: internet governance and children's rights
- Sonia Livingstone (LSE)
In this article, Sonia Livingstone provides her views on internet governance and children's rights.
- Recognition of children's rights should be embedded in the activities, policies and structures of internet governance processes. This includes provision and participation rights as well as protection rights. Strategies need to be developed to address conflicts between rights – especially to ensure that children's rights to provision and participation are not unduly compromised in an effort to protect them.
- While States and public institutions bear the primary responsibility to ensure the realisation of children's rights through the creation of legislative and policy frameworks, rights frameworks now encompass the activities and responsibilities of business also, and this applies to the internet industry as much as any other.
- In the multi-stakeholder context of internet governance, parents and children (and their representatives) should be recognized and included as significant stakeholders. This will require specific efforts and the development of appropriate mechanisms of participation and inclusion.
- In addition to supporting a constructive dialogue between internet governance and child rights organisations, it is important for internet governance to develop mechanisms to represent and implement children's rights online. To develop these, internet governance organisations could explicitly draw on the experience of child rights organisations (or children's commissioners or ombudspersons) based on their established work in other domains. Since questions of child protection seem especially likely to trigger critical concerns over internet governance in terms of its remit, accountability and forms of redress, it is vital that internet governance bodies find ways to establish their legitimacy in relation to all stakeholders, including children and those who represent children's rights.
To underpin the above efforts, an evidence base is required. The risks and opportunities afforded to children by ‘the internet' are far from simple or universal, and they are too little understood especially in the global South and in relation to emerging digital technologies. To ground this research enterprise, internet governance organisations should ensure that important information about children's internet access and use is collected so that it is known how many children use the internet and which inequalities or other problems exist.