IGF 2019 WS #137 Kids online: what we know and can do to keep them safe.

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 4: Intergovernmental Organization, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Speaker 1: AMANDA THIRD, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Alexandre Barbosa, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: María Alejandra Erramuspe, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Wenying Su , Intergovernmental Organization, Asia-Pacific Group

Policy Question(s): 

What do we know?
• According to the available evidence, what are the current trends in the activities that children perform online? What risks do they experience online?
• Specifically, to what extent are children exposed to harassment and hate speech online? What are the singularities of these issues considering gender?
• What do children have to say about their own safety online?

What needs to be done?
• How can children’s rights to participation, access to information, and freedom of speech be preserved and balanced with their right to be protected from violence, exploitation and sexual abuse in the online environment?
• How can children´s resilience be increased by means of capacity building, media literacy, support and guidance in the digital environment?
• What legal, regulatory and technical instruments need to be put in place to meet the needs of the children and harness digital opportunities for them?
• How can children’s rights be embedded in the activities and policies of international Internet governance institutions? How can the gender perspective be integrated within the children´s rights perspective for such matters?

How can it be done?
• What role should different stakeholders play in cybersecurity capacity building approaches?
• What multi-stakeholder collaboration arrangements have been put in place in the regions represented in the panel, and with what outcomes?
• Can these initiatives be replicated in other regions? What would be the viability and main challenges of doing so?

Relevance to Theme: In a context of increasing access to the Internet by children, where one every three Internet users is a child (UNICEF, 2017), the relevance of knowing how they use it and how they handle the risks and opportunities associated with that use is indisputable. The available data suggests a significant diffusion of both home and mobile Internet access by children, particularly since 2012 (Global Kids Online, 2016; UNICEF, 2017). In other words, over the latest years, more children have gone online worldwide, with a shift from a predominantly middle-class access to access by poorer children (yet with great variation between countries). This means that both the risks and opportunities associated with digital inclusion have diversified, as have the knowledge, skills and behaviour patterns of the new users.

In this context, the phenomenon of massive child online presence is relatively new and, therefore, the reliable knowledge about it still scarce, particularly in the Global South. In order to formulate comprehensive policies and to implement effective protection and promotion measures targeting online children, it is germane to approach the topic from an evidence-based perspective and to avoid both unnecessarily magnifying risks and underestimating potential benefits of the digital inclusion. In this context, the reference to evidence does not merely involve considering the traditional available data sources, usually statistical data. As it has been frequently pointed out (among others, by Faro Digital NGO and UNICEF), the approaches to child online safety have almost exclusively portrayed an adult perspective. Failing to consider children´s own stake on the issue entails not only limiting their right to expressing their voice on matters that directly involve them, but it may also lead to policy and communication design flaws. In other words, projects and communication materials often speak a language and pose issues that differ from children´s understanding of them, leading to failures in reaching the target audience and, moreover, in meeting children´s needs.

An evidence-based approach to this topic needs to encompass the complexity of the issue, considering both the supply and demand sides. The former, including Internet and platform features, laws, regulations and policy measures; the latter comprising children´s perspectives, actions, skills and resources, along with those of their parent´s.

A specific value of the proposed workshop, therefore, is that discussions will be grounded on recent, nationally representative and reliable data on children´s use of the Internet and on children´s own perspective, which will be brought to the table as a result of a series of workshops organized globally to hear their voice. Furthermore, the very production of the data and the experiences showcased are framed in multi-stakeholder collaboration arrangements, representing an example of good practice in terms of what needs to be done in order to promote child safer use of the Internet and how to further harness the opportunities associated with it.

Guaranteeing opportunities for digital inclusion and lifelong learning, as expressed by SDG 4, cannot be achieved without gender equity and without meeting the gender-specific challenges faced by child internet users; therefore the direct relation of the proposed panel with SDGs 4 and 5. Moreover, keeping children safe and healthy, as expressed in SDG 3, is among the most important goals for children in the SDGs, and it entails considering the threats and opportunities posed by the online environment. Finally, ending violence against children by 2030 includes ending sexual abuse, harassment and hate speech both offline and online, something that is, in turn, key to achieving peaceful and inclusive societies, as expressed by SDG 16.

Relevance to Internet Governance: With one every three Internet users being a child, a generic or age-blind approach to “users” in Internet governance regimes, policies or regulations may certainly fall short of effectively meeting children´s needs and guaranteeing their rights, since children constitute a population with very specific developmental characteristics, vulnerabilities and rights. In this sense, this proposal is relevant since it brings children´s rights to a focus within the Internet Governance agenda. Given the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in November 2019, this proposal is particularly timely to guarantee covering the topic.

Complementarily, the relevance of the proposed approach lies in the fact that by bringing together researchers, policy-makers and children´s voice to the table, it guarantees an approach characterized by a multi-stakeholder perspective, with the added value of organizing the discussion on an evidence-based approach, including children’s own voice. Furthermore, both the data production and the policy measures to be discussed have taken place, from the onset, within multi-stakeholder approaches, where collaboration between government, civil society and the academia have crystallized both in joint financing and planning of the research, and the ulterior policy discussions.

By disseminating knowledge about children´s access, use, skills, opportunities and risks faced online and stimulating the discussion about challenges and actions needed for a safer digital inclusion, the proposed workshop is also relevant to Internet Governance by pointing in the direction of feasible courses of action. Discussing rules, decision-making and programmes needed to shape the evolution of the Internet towards a safer place for children and an ambient that provides better quality opportunities to them impacts the right to digital inclusion and to quality education as expressed in SDG 4 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.


Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Description: AGENDA

Introduction by the panel moderator (5’)
Presentations from panellists (45’, of which 5’ for short introductions)
• Cristina Ponte (Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal)
• Wenying Su. (Child Protection Section, UNICEF, China).
• Amanda Third (Western Sydney University, Australia)
• Alexandre Barbosa (Cetic.br, Brazil)
• Alejandra Erramuspe. (AGESIC, Uruguay).

Moderation: Guilherme Canela (UNESCO).

Comments and questions from the audience, both present and remote (45’, of which 5' for final remarks)


Each panellist will be previously briefed to prepare a short presentation organized on the basis of the policy questions, and bringing a regional perspective.

After the presentations, the moderator will organize a participatory discussion, raising questions linked to the policy questions and making room for questions from the audience (both present and remote), including questions from the other panellists.

Children’s own voice will be present through children´s participation in the qualitative research workshops previously carried out in the frame of the facilitating children’s consultations for the UNCRC General Comment on Children and the Digital Environment, in which the presenter´s organization participates.

Members of the networks dedicated to research on online children and to advocating for online children´s protection and promotion, like Global Kids Online and Latin America Kids Online will participate remotely in the panel discussions.

Expected Outcomes: - Increased visibility and awareness of children´s rights within the Internet Governance agenda.
- A thoroughly discussed and updated roadmap of the main challenges and opportunities for online children, stemming from multi-stakehorlder discussions and enriched by the audicience´s input (including both present and online participants).
-Clear identification of action paths and feasible multi-stakeholder arrangements in the regions represented.

Discussion Facilitation: 

Interaction will be encouraged in the different lines:

a) Between panelists. Panelists will be encouraged to ask each other at least one question, in addition to answering the moderator´s and audience´s questions.
b) Between panelists and the audience. The audience will be able to ask questions right after each panelist intervention. Questions will be made in real time. Members of the audience who prefer to do so, will be able to
send the moderator written questions as well.
c) From remote participants. Questions and comments from the online participation official platform and other social media (Twitter) will be compiled by a designated team member, and read right after every round of questions from the onsite audience.

Online Participation: 

A moderator will be organizing the remote participation in the online tool and will be answering questions, commenting with the participants, and he will bring some of the comments or questions to the panelists and present audience.

Proposed Additional Tools: Remote participation will also be facilitated through a hashtag in Twitter.


GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-Being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals