What are the rights of the child in the digital space?

Just mention the phrase, “Kids Online” and immediately the subject shifts to today’s generation of teens seemingly fused with their phone, gaming console and the net. Experts lament the loss of privacy, while others warn of terrible consequences of spending so much time online. Some in society question the constant need to be on social media and it’s photogenic offspring, the ubiquitous #Selfie.

But has anyone, y’know, asked the kids what they think about the current state of play. What they are concerned about, or what guidance and support they’d appreciate?

Well, yes. Actually someone has.

Last week the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (YAWCRC) presented it’s submission to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Entitled Children’s Rights in the Digital Age – A Download from Children Around the World, the report – to quote the YAWCRC – represents the views of 148 children from 16 countries, speaking eight different languages. It calls for online policies that not only protect young people, but also empower them to form their own opinions on harnessing their rights in the digital age.

It makes for a very interesting read. Two points that really resonated with me upon first reading were ones that affirmed something I’ve been thinking and sharing with teachers and youth workers for a while now.

1. In the minds of our kids, there isn’t really an online/offline distinction. They live their lives in many different spaces, and the “digital world” is just another of those spaces.

2. Young people use social media to enhance their wellbeing. Of course there are concerns but just as there are concerns that you might injure your hamstring, or get run over going for a run, we can’t let these concerns be the focus of the narrative around young people using digital media. Kids use it to enhance their relationships, their learning and their capacity to have a voice. All vital in developing resilience and wellbeing.

I urge anyone who works with young people to read the report, and keep up to date with the YAWCRC more broadly.

Author: Dan Haesler is a teacher, consultant and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars. His website is: http://danhaesler.com/ and he tweets at @danhaesler