Council of Europe: EU states must protect digital rights of children

EU countries have been given clear guidelines on how to better respect and protect the rights of children in a ‘digital environment’.

They form part of a new recommendation adopted by the Council of Europe (CoE) which has been issued to all member states. Designed to compliment existing European and international legal instruments, the text provides EU government with the tools to improve and develop child-friendly digital policies.

Protect human rights

Based in Strasbourg, the CoE is an international organisation made up of 47 countries in Europe. It was set up to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe. It says the digital environment shapes children’s lives in many ways, on the one hand creating a host of exciting opportunities while on the other presenting potential risks to their well-being and human rights.

The guidance recommends that governments should review existing legislation, policies and practices to ensure that they adequately address the full range of a child’s rights. Countries should also make sure that the business community and other stakeholders are not only meeting their human rights responsibilities, but also held accountable in cases involving abuse.

Specific measures

Poor access to the digital environment, says the CoE, may ‘affect the ability of children to fully exercise their human rights’. EU states should ensure children have adequate, affordable and secure access to devices, connectivity and content specifically intended for children; in dedicated public places such access should be rendered free of charge. However, specific measures should be taken to protect infants from premature exposure to the digital environment.

Children, adds the guidance, have the right to non-discrimination, the right to be heard, the right to freedom of expression and information, and also have their privacy and data protected. The document concludes by saying that in order to deliver the guidelines, EU member states should ‘strengthen co-operation within relevant intergovernmental bodies, transnational networks and other international organisations’.

Feature Image: CC

Author: Simon Weedy

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