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Children are growing up in an ever-more connected world. They go online to learn, to interact, to share, to create, to play; indeed, it seems that the internet now permeates nearly every aspect of children’s lives. Accordingly, the digital environment has increasingly widespread and profound implications for children’s rights as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). While the CRC predates the internet as we know it today, it has for more than 25 years recognised that children’s unique situation gives rise to a specific and holistic set of rights, from health and education to protection and participation. The CRC applies equally in the digital world, which means that children have the same rights online as they do offline.
Digital technology offers a uniquely empowering way for children to exercise their rights. In particular, going online is an expansive means for children to engage with the communities and societies around them. Children have instantaneous access to vast quantities of information and extensive social networks, which together enable children to form and express their views, opinions and experiences at an unprecedented pace and scale. Freedom of expression is fundamental to civil life in a democracy, and to children’s development as skilled, confident and responsible digital citizens.
Protecting the online rights of children in the commercial sphere has become a pressing issue for policymakers, as UNICEF’s PATRICK GEARY explains.
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