Discussion paper series

Two teenage girls work on a computer in an Internet café, Madagascar.
© UNICEF/UN015582/Prinsloo

Children’s Rights and Business in a Digital World

As more children around the world spend more time on the Internet, in more ways, it becomes more essential to appreciate what children’s rights mean in a digital world. While there is now a widely accepted public imperative to protect children from harm, abuse and violence online, there has been comparatively little consideration of how to empower children as active digital rights-holders. At the same time, the rapidly expanding power and reach of the ICT sector have thrust communications and technology companies into key policy debates around the risks and opportunities children encounter online. This series of discussion papers seeks to explore the relationship between children’s rights, business and the Internet in greater detail. While the issues presented are by no means exhaustive, it is hoped that these discussion papers will contribute to broadening the conversation on children’s rights and business in a digital world.

Privacy, Protection of Personal Information and Reputation [PDF] analyses the complex relationship between children’s privacy and the internet. While the internet has the ability to emancipate children’s autonomy and enhance independence, children’s privacy can be undermined by a number of risks related to the collection and onward sale of their data and browsing habits, behavior targeting and advertising, the use of biometrics, age verification and the mandatory use of identification, government surveillance and a variety of parental controls. This paper explores these risks to children’s privacy online and puts forward the responsibilities of and opportunities for the ICT sector to respond to these risks.

Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Participation [PDF] considers how children's expression and information rights can be realized online. The internet provides children with unparalleled opportunities to form opinions, share ideas, and gather with peers, and gives children direct access to boundless information. At the same time, the internet has facilitated the creation and distribution of illegal, harmful and inappropriate content. This paper explores both the risks to and opportunities for children's freedom of expression and access to information online, and discusses the role and responsibility of industry.

Access to the Internet, Education and Digital Literacy [PDF] explores barriers that children face to having meaningful online experiences. There are promising initiatives to help children connect to the Internet and all that is has to offer, but there are also concerns about the nature and scope of the access that children are offered. Equally, it is clear that that access must be paired with digital literacy training for children to safely and confidently exercise their rights online. This paper underscores the growing importance of meaningful Internet access for children, and explores the role and responsibility of industry in making this access universal. 

Children and Digital Marketing: Rights, risks and opportunities [PDF] offers a view of today’s digital marketing landscape from a child rights perspective, and aims to provide a basis for marketing practices that better protect children’s rights. The paper outlines drivers and features of the current situation and concludes with a brief description of the regulatory context, while section three focuses on understanding the impact of digital marketing on children’s rights. This paper also turns to marketing actors, breaking down their roles in the value chain and potential interferences with children’s rights. As the basis for ongoing discussion, the paper offers suggestions for the next steps and opportunities for positive change.

Policy briefs

Please also see our policy briefs which summarizes the key issues, drivers and players in relation to children’s online privacy, freedom of expression and digital marketing and outlines principles and actions for companies to protect children’s rights. The briefs have been developed to distill key messages from the discussion papers and toolkits.

Children’s Rights in the Digital Age
Children and Online Privacy
Children and Digital Marketing
Children’s Freedom of Expression