The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other children’s organisations have the opportunity to determine how digital technology and communications are affecting the rights of children around the world, according to a new report from LSE conducted for UNICEF's Office of Research.
The report, A Global Agenda for Children’s Rights in the Digital Age: Recommendations for Developing UNICEF’s Research Strategy by Professor Sonia Livingstone and Dr Monica Bulger of LSE, argues that the time is right for UNICEF and others to adopt new research methods in order to get up-to-date evidence on how children are using information and communication technology (ICT), and how this may affect their rights and wellbeing.
Even though children’s digital activities are growing quickly, many of the creative and interactive features of the internet remain substantially underused, especially in lower-income countries and among marginalised children. The growth in ICT around the world is also increasing ‘offline risks’ such as bullying, exposure to pornography and unwanted sexual solicitation.
The number of households with internet access in developing countries has nearly doubled in the past five years, and looks set for significant further growth. Having conducted interviews with internet and child welfare experts around the world, the report authors conclude that there is a pressing need for research insights generated in the wealthier global North to be extended or complemented by research in the global South.
With stronger evidence about children’s internet use, UNICEF and other children’s organisations would be able to campaign for more effective policies. This would give more children, from all over the world, greater opportunities to benefit from the internet while being protected from the associated dangers.
Commenting on the report, Professor Livingstone said,
“Drawing the distinction between offline and online is becoming increasingly impossible. We should anticipate that almost any experience will now have an online dimension. The internet, therefore, can no longer be considered as marginal to children's rights.
“Although many valuable initiatives to promote children’s rights to online protection and participation are underway worldwide, the lack of a sound evidence base makes it hard to set policy priorities, monitor progress, and design effective interventions.”
The full report is available to download here: A Global Agenda for Children’s Rights in the Digital Age: Recommendations for Developing UNICEF’s Research Strategy
Sonia Livingstone will be launching the report at a forum organised by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University on Monday 7th October 6pm ET.
This report was commissioned via LSE Enterprise