Happy World Children's Day!

On Wednesday, 20 November 2019, we celebrate the United Nations (UN) World Children's Day, an international observance aiming to promote and celebrate children's rights everywhere around the world.

World Children's Day – Background

On 20 November 1954, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Later on, on 20 November 1989, the same assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child – which became the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.

World Children's Day has therefore been celebrated every 20 November since 1954 to celebrate these two documents, offering everyone around the world "an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote and celebrate children's rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for children".

Safeguarding children's rights by protecting their digital footprint

The 2019 edition of World Children's Day is even more special in that it marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On this occasion, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore published an Open Letter to the World's Children, stating eight reasons why she is worried for children's future – one of them being the need to protect children's digital footprint. In this letter, she writes: "Personal information created during childhood may be shared with third parties, traded for profit or used to exploit young people – particularly the most vulnerable and marginalised. Meanwhile, identity thieves and hackers have exploited vulnerabilities in e-commerce platforms to defraud and exploit adults and children alike; search engines track users' behaviour regardless of their age, and government surveillance of online activity is increasingly sophisticated around the world. Moreover, data collected during childhood have the potential to influence future opportunities, such as access to finance, education, insurance and health care. The relationship between data collection and usage, consent and privacy is complex enough for adults, but it is doubly so for children, since the internet has never been designed with children's rights and needs in mind, and few are equipped to navigate the complexities of data sharing and privacy control."

However, according the Henrietta H. Flore, there is hope because "governments are strengthening regulatory frameworks; private sector providers are recognising their role; and educators are thinking about how to equip children with the tools to navigate the online world safely".

Building a better internet for children

The EU Strategy for a Better Internet for Children – which the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) programme results from – aims to take into account children's particular needs and vulnerabilities on the internet, by proposing a series of actions to be undertaken by the European Commission, Member States and by the whole industry value chain. Only by fostering a global, multi-stakeholder partnership can we guarantee that children make the most of the opportunities offered by the digital transformation, while mitigating its potentially negative externalities.

As part of this programme, the Insafe network of European Safer Internet Centres (SICs) have developed over the years a variety of resources to address the concerns related to children and young people's digital lives – including the issue of minors' digital footprints in the era of big data.

These resources and many more are available in the BIK repository of resources.

To learn more about World Children's Day, visit the UN website and keep an eye on #WorldChildrensDay and #CRC30 on Twitter to see what is organised around the world.

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Each year, on 20 November, we celebrate Universal Children's Day. The day is linked to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was first proclaimed by the United Nations on 20 November 1989 – long before the current digital era!