Children's Rights in the Digital Age

Associate Professor Amanda Third, Delphine Bellerose, Dr Emma Keltie, Dr Girish Lala, Kari Pihl, Kat Sandbach, Lilly Moody, Georgina Theakstone and Lauren David

Children's Rights in the Digital Age is the first project to ever comprehensively document the online experiences of children from around the world regarding their rights in the digital age. In the project, 148 children from 16 countries participated in workshops where they engaged in a series of activities to document their experiences, culminating in an internationally distributed report and short film. The project was a partnership between the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, The Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and UNICEF, in conjunction with 17 international partner organisations affiliated with the Digitally Connected Network.

This project was the first opportunity of many children to discuss their rights in the digital age. Youth participants reported that they felt empowered by the opportunity to contribute their views to a project positioned to have global policy implications.

'Children increasingly don't see their digital rights as separate from their rights more broadly. They see the online world as simply another setting in which they interact,' says lead researcher Associate Professor Amanda Third from the Institute for Culture and Society.

'In our efforts to ensure that children's right to be protected is upheld, we may in fact be curbing their right to participate, and subsequently formulate their own opinions and new ways to use technology.'

'Children must be given the opportunity to think critically and develop their own language and strategies, otherwise they will be unable to develop resilience when facing risks.'

The impact of the project has been broad, with the youth participation and strengths-based approaches to young people's technology being promoted in key global policy making forums.

In September 2014, the project findings and film were presented in the opening plenary of the Committee on the Rights of the Child's 2014 Day of General Discussion, held at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The day brought together over 200 delegates from international organisations to debate how to update the Convention for the Rights of the Child for the digital age. The Committee benefited from the new evidence and insights from children and young people, which directly informed their deliberations.

The project report was subsequently published as a second edition that was co-branded with UNICEF, and both the report and film were launched globally as part of UNICEF's 25th anniversary of the Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child events and distributed to 3.2million recipients internationally via UNICEF's social media channels. 

In terms of scholarly outputs, the research team will shortly publish a co-edited special edition of New Media and Society, a leading journal in the field of technology practices. The findings have been presented at numerous international conferences by Dr Third. As a result of her work in the field, Dr Third has been appointed as an Expert Advisor to Global Kids Online, a joint initiative of the London School of Economics and UNICEF. A report by Dr Third on researching the opportunities and benefits for children online will be distributed as part of the launch of the Global Kids Online Research Toolkit.

Young people continue to be engaged through – a platform developed in partnership with the Digitally Connected Network, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and UNICEF's Voices of Youth. currently engages over 200 participants from 24 countries and the research team is working with a range of partners internationally to co-develop online activities through which children can explore issues relating to their rights.

Importantly, Children's Rights in the Digital Age was the first project undertaken by the Digitally Connected Network, an international collaboration of one hundred and fifty scholarly, policy and practice organisations with an interest in promoting the positive impacts of young people's digital practices. By engaging a range of organisations within the network, this project has strengthened the ties between them and paved the way for further collaborations to ensure that the impact of the work is ongoing.

This video shows Associate Professor Amanda Third and Safe and Well Online researcher Dr Philippa Collin talking about the work of the Young and Well CRC more broadly.