In November 2015, the Global Commission on Internet Governance and Chatham House published the article One in Three: Internet Governance and Children’s Rights1 (Livingstone, Carr, and Byrne 2015). ‘One in Three’ was the first study to document the true scale of children’s engagement with the internet on a global basis. One-third of all human internet users are legally children, under the age of 18.
In parts of the developing world, the proportion of child internet users rises to almost one in two. In Europe and North America, the numbers hover around one in five. This makes children the largest single identifiable constituency of internet users both globally and within most national jurisdictions.
Thus, the internet is a medium for children and families. Yet, there is little recognition of this fact in key internet governance or cyber policy-making spaces. John Carr, OBE, Secretary of the UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, Member of the Executive Board UK Council of Child Internet Safety, and Expert Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, speaks with Journal Editor, Emily Taylor about the importance of child rights in internet policy.
How have the rights of children been considered in the internet policy-making space?
In the early days of the internet, children were never part of the equation or the thinking. ‘Kids’ stuff’ was considered the responsibility of parents and schools, and nothing to do with internet policy-making. This mindset has carried on and carried through. A new class of cyber pioneers emerged who claimed to be concerned only with rolling out the technology and developing new products and services. They would reject the suggestion that societal impacts of technology were any part of their concern, much less their responsibility. Much of that mentality is still around, especially when it comes to children and technology policy.
Children not only share all the human rights enjoyed by adults, they also benefit from an extra layer of rights. Until children reach a certain level of maturity, in practice their rights are and ought to be mediated through their parents or care-givers. But in principle, many children’s rights are not in any way contingent upon adult acquiescence or consent. Children hold rights themselves, and as their capacities evolve, they may exercise them independently.
INSERT Rights of the Child Video.
The internet of toys – the impact on children of a connected environment: Interview with John Carr. JOURNAL OF CYBER POLICY, 2017 VOL. 2, NO. 2, 227–231 https://doi.org/10.1080/23738871.2017.1355401