IGF 2018 DC Child Online Safety: Online products and their impact on children’s vulnerability

Salle IV

DC on Child Online Safety

Round Table - 60 Min


Many Apps, games and online services are designed to engage children and hold their attention for as long as possible. They even may provide incentives to engage longer: You need to get to the next level, regardless of how tired you are, regardless of the time limit your parents might have set. Snapchat and „streaks“ is an example for that kind of strategy. Children lose all their streaks if they do not engage with SnapChat in one single day. But we need to have in mind the more tired or distracted the child becomes the more vulnerable they can be. Apps, games and online services often are designed to gather as much data as possible from children: As data have become a currency, children are commercially exploited by the companies providing such apps games and online services. We witness regular data breach in very powerful and global companies where we would expect strong security standards to be in place. How can we know if those companies who target children have proper built-in security systems such as encryption? This also raises fundamental questions such as -Which effects do such products have on child development? -How do such products infringe children’s rights? -How does society deal with that type of commercialisation of childhood?


ECPAT International - Marie-Laure Lemineur; Stiftung Digitale Chancen - Jutta Croll


(in alphabetical order)

  • Dr. Divina Frau-Meigs, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle 
  • John Carr, eNACSO
  • Jutta Croll, Childrens-rights.digital
  • Maarten Botterman,  Dynamic Coalition on Internet of Things and Director of Board ICANN. 
  • Patrick Mead, Dubit Limited, UK
  • Moderator: Marie-Laure Lemineur, ECPAT International
Session Time
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

- Session Type (Workshop, Open Forum, etc.): Dynamic Coalition on Child Online Safety

- Title: Online products and their impact on children’s vulnerability

- Date & Time: Tuesday 13 November 2018, 12:30-13:30 pm. Salle IV.

- Organizer(s): ECPAT International and Stiftung Digitale Chancen

- Chair/Moderator: Marie-Laure Lemineur, ECPAT International

- Rapporteur/Notetaker: Marie-laure Lemineur, ECPAT International

- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/

transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):

  • Jutta Croll -  Stiftung Digitale Chancen, Germany-  Female
  • John Carr – eNASCO - Male
  • Maarten Botternam – ICANN Board and Chair of the DC Internet of Things - Male
  • Patrick Mead, Dubit Limited, UK - Male

-Theme (as listed here): Human Rights Gender and Youth

- Subtheme (as listed here): Child Online Protection

- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]

  1. It is important to discuss screen time exposure and its positive and negative impact on children; 
  2. There is need to discuss Is there such a thing as a “a right amount of screen time for children” using phones, tablets or any other objects connected however equally important is what children do when the engage with devices and internet as it can be meaningful time;
  3. Parents and care givers are in part responsible for guiding children however other sectors are should equally engage, namely the private companies developing platforms used by children;

- Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence. [150 words]

  1. There was agreement that it is extremely important to elaborate strategies taking into account age categories given that age differentiation is a key element of a successful strategy;
  2. Some argued that it is more important to look at the what the child does when connected rather than focusing solely on the time he spends connected.  In other words, what should matter is what the children do when they are connected and not so much how many hours they are connected;
  3. However, speakers and participants from the floor did acknowledge that there is need for researching more on the negative impact of over use of screen time and this type of engagement. Some initial existing research is pointing towards changes in the brain functions, loss of memory, more attention deficit problems, sleep deprivation, virtual autism. One participant mentioned that a special area of attention in that regard should be the effect of 3D screens and virtual reality where very few is known;
  4. Another participant emphasized that we needed to be careful when discussing “addiction”. The notion of what constitutes or not addiction is not that clear cut and that there is need for agreement;
  5. One youth participant noted that in some countries parents are addicted and they are no social interaction between parents and children or between children themselves because they spend so much time online;
  6. There is consensus that the speedy evolution of technology is challenging. This fast evolving environment allows constant emerging potential negative impact on users;
  7. Those devices have many functions and as a result, children use them for multiple purposes such as studying, looking for source material, connecting to friends, play, watch movies, etc.   

- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [100 words]

  1. There is need for the concerned parties in this topic to engage in producing more research on the impact of over exposure of screen time and over use of internet on children;
  2. There is need to think of age verification even if this is difficult;
  3. Private sector companies are forced to develop products for children that do not harm them as they are their user base of this;
  4. Not all children as the same, age differentiation solutions are vitals;
  5. A call was made by one participant for the private sector to share its data for research purpose by research institutes.

- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [75 words]

All members of the DC COS are active within the IGF ecosystem, individually many are already active on aspects of this topic, raising awareness among policy makers, promoting research, etc.

- Please estimate the total number of participants. 60 participants

- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present. 50%

- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? [100 words]

There was no mention of the gender dimension of the problem rather a mention of how relevant it is to consider age differentiation regardless of gender when discussing solutions.

- Add your Inputs to the UN SG High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation as explained here:

or each issue area covered during your session (e.g. e-commerce, cybersecurity, privacy, AI), please provide input on the following questions:

1. What are values that digital cooperation should aspire to?

2. What are principles that digital cooperation should follow?

3. Which digital cooperation mechanisms were mentioned during the session?

4. Based on the discussions during the session, how can digital cooperation mechanisms be improved (such as: addressing gaps in existing mechanisms, developing a cross-silo approach, increasing inclusiveness)?

5. Please indicate any other aspect related to digital cooperation that could be of relevance for the Panel’s deliberation.