Protecting Children in Cyberconflicts

Rapid analysis | How does cyberconflict affect children? And what can be done to safeguard their rights, security and wellbeing?

Houloud Abo Hosoun, 15, holds up a solar lamp for her sister Saja (second left), as she reads a book for her sisters at night at the family home in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.


Just as digital technologies have transformed myriad aspects of daily life, they are now transforming war, politics and the social fabric.

This rapid analysis examines the ways in which cyberconflict adversely affects children and offers actions that could strengthen safeguards to protect them.

Cyberconflict can impact children directly or indirectly. Harms range from direct targeting for influence and recruitment into armed forces and armed groups, to personal data manipulation and theft, to cyber attacks on infrastructure across sectors critical to child well-being such as education and health facilities.

Many experts believe that the combination of existing international humanitarian law, international criminal law, human rights law, and child rights law is adequate to address the emerging issues posed by cyberconflict. Nevertheless, several key challenges persist. Attribution of cyber attacks to specific actors and ensuring accountability has proven challenging, particularly in the so-called grey zone between war and peace.

There is an urgent need to clarify how child rights apply in the digital space and for Member States to place these rights at the centre of regulatory frameworks and legislation on new technologies.

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Eleonore Pauwels, Senior Fellow, Global Center on Cooperative Security
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