Children’s Commissioners from across Europe are meeting in Belfast today to discuss the challenges of protecting children’s rights in the digital world. The conference will call on governments, international authorities and global tech companies to make further efforts to provide a safer and improved online world for children.
The 23rd Annual Conference of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) will draw on the experiences of young people to design recommendations that respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights in the digital environment.
It is estimated that a third of internet users across the world are children and young people under the age of 18. A deeply interconnected online and offline world brings challenges and opportunities that will be explored by 42 independent children’s rights institutions from 34 States at the Hilton Belfast. The European Network of Youth Advisors (ENYA), representing 18 countries, will also be participating in and leading some of the discussions.
ENOC and ENYA members will be joined by children’s rights advocates, Council of Europe, EU and government representatives, NGOs and regulators.
Discussions will include the need for effective regulation of all online services, greater consumer protection for children and parental use. Commissioners will remind relevant authorities that children must have a say on actions and decisions that affect them and should enjoy equality of access to technology without discrimination. Efforts should be intensified to reduce the availability of harmful content to protect children from online abuse and exploitation and parents should be better supported in their role as protectors and mediators.
The two-day conference is being hosted by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People and ENOC Chair elect, Koulla Yiasouma:
“As independent human rights bodies, children’s ombudsmen and commissioners have a unique role to play in the protection and promotion of children’s rights in every aspect of their lives. With the reality that the current generation of children and young people is the first to truly live in the digital age, comes the challenge of adequate oversight and effective action on global issues.
“From smart baby monitors at infancy through to social media, facial recognition and gaming technologies, children’s online and offline lives are intrinsically linked. Children’s rights can only prosper in the digital environment if we commit to better practice.
“We urge the Council of Europe, European Commission, States and duty bearers to develop and implement rights-based strategies and measures, designed to evolve with technological developments that support the realisation of international standards on children’s rights.”
Children and young people’s views will be incorporated into ENOC’s Position Statement and recommendations. The 2019 ENYA Forum found that children and young people generally have a balanced and considered view of the digital environment. They stated: “Grown-ups often mostly see and mention negative things about the internet. But mostly the internet is very positive. Children and young people should be supported in how to interact in a positive way with digital media.”
Children’s Defender France and ENOC Chair, Geneviève Avenard, said:
“It is the responsibility of States to improve existing principles and measures to secure the digital environment but this can only be achieved with industry cooperation and a global response to take stock and make a commitment to ensure that the best interests of children are central to future decisions and innovations.
“Belfast is a great location for our annual conference in the 30th Anniversary Year of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is appropriate that we are discussing how the UNCRC can be applied to children’s online lives.”
ENOC will work with the European Commission, Council of Europe and other duty bearers to promote and monitor implementation of the recommendations agreed at the ENOC General Assembly.
Notes to editor:
The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) is a not-for-profit association of independent children’s rights institutions. Its mandate is to facilitate the promotion and protection of the rights of children, as formulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The digital environment as referenced in the press release encompasses information and communication technologies including the internet, mobile and associated technologies and devices, as well as digital networks, databases, content and services.
A copy of the Conference Programme is available on request.
For further information:
Please contact the Communications team at NICCY.
James McCreadie: +44 (0)7917 544 177