Human society has entered into a digital era, especially for children. According to ITU’s Facts and Figures 2022, an estimated 5.3 billion people of the earth’s 8 billion are using the internet in 2022, or roughly 66 per cent of the world’s population. Most importantly, “the young internet users cross a digital threshold”:youth aged 15-24 years are the driving force of connectivity, with 75 per cent of young people worldwide now able to use the Internet. For high and upper-middle-income economies, the young internet users has already been reached 95 per cent.1
The protection of child rights online is facing unprecedented challenges, and entering the stage of global governance. Of course the internet has brought new opportunities for children and young people to exercise their rights to communicate, connect, learn, access information and express their opinions, on matters that affect them and their communities. However mechanisms for the protection of child rights have lagged behind significantly and most countries as well as digital platforms have not yet established new mechanisms for the protection of child rights with the development of the digital era. Except enjoying the opportunities and convenience, children are suffering violence, hatred, pornography and other harmful information online, and also facing risks such as cyberbully, privacy and personal information leakage, sexual abuse and exploitation, and excessive screen usage. We noticed the entire international community is facing those same challenges, and it’s time for us to pay the attention and find a general resolution together.
The international community has long noted the important impact of large corporations on human rights protections, particularly on child rights. In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council approved the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework. It has become an important international initiative to promote multinational corporations and other business enterprises to engage in the work of human rights protection. The international community is more concerned about new problems facing child rights protection in the digital age. In March 2021, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued the general comment No. 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment, which highlights the basic principles and key strategic measures for safeguarding child rights in the digital age. The international community is increasingly aware of the difference between digital platforms and traditional businesses and their significant impact on the rights of the citizens.
However, all countries, digital platforms, child protection organizations and professionals, should be aware that the international community and many countries haven’t take sufficient actions for protection of child rights in the digital era yet and many digital platforms are also inexperienced in how to become an important factor and key strength in protection of child rights online.
We therefore call upon,
The United Nations to establish special mechanisms for the protection of child rights online, including requesting the special procedures of the Human Rights Council to share experiences and best practices for children’s protection online within different stakeholders, requesting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish written report on relevant issues, requesting the UN Human Rights Council to promote the Guiding Principles on Digital Platforms and Child Rights as soon as possible. The United Nations promotes bilateral and multilateral cooperation among countries and regions on the protection of child rights online, particularly in the areas of cyberbullying, cyberviolence and fraud among children, and establishes mechanisms for cooperation.
Encourage and support countries to formulate and improve their laws and policies on the protection of the child in the digital age in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the general comment No. 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment by UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to guide and supervise platforms to play a positive role in protecting child rights.
Encourage and support Digital Platforms to make reference to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and to clarify their commitments and policies on child rights protection, establish internal child rights protection mechanisms, provide more products and services that are beneficial to children’s physical and mental health, take more measures to protect children from internet harms, actively fulfill their social responsibilities and participate in offline child rights protection work, with the aim to promote digital platforms to become an important and active force in protecting child rights in the digital era. It is recommended that technical and institutional cooperation be explored between large multinational platforms to better realize child rights and protect them from online abuse.