IGF 2018 OF #17 Children and AI - securing child rights for the ai generation

Salle VIII

Sub-theme description: human rights, youth and emerging technologies


How can businesses, governments, civil society, and others (tech designers, start-ups, academia) employ the child rights framework to develop effective policies, guidelines, and best practices that will steer the development of ai technologies to capitalize on opportunities to improve children's lives and mitigate risks? While there are many uncertainties around Artificial Intelligence, we know that it will impact almost every part of our lives, and that in many cases the impacts will be greatest for children- from how they are conceived and born, to the services they can access, and how they learn, to the jobs they will train for. This reality brings with it a tremendous amount of opportunity and risk. Without specific attention to children, the evolution of this technology will proceed without considering children’s specific needs and rights. The healthy development of children is crucial the future well being of any society, and the cost to society of failing our children is enormous. At a high level, we seek to start a conversation that will inform the global agenda on AI and children - specifying the priority opportunities and challenges for a global context, and identifying who needs to be involved in furthering the agenda. We seek to convene a diverse audience to identify the best pathways forward for government/ private sector adoption of child-friendly AI policies. This Open Forum will be led by UNICEF in collaboration with its its partners to kick start the consultation process and build a coalition of agencies and individuals willing to work together on building a broader AI and child rights agenda.


UNICEF Division of Data, Research and Policy


Moderator: Jasmina Byrne, UNICEF Division of Data, Research and Policy Speakers: Sandra Cortesi, Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, Harvard University Jennie Berstein, UNICEF, Office of Innovation, Steven Vosloo, UNICEF, Fengchui Mioa, UNESCO, Jonnie Penn, Cambridge University 

Online Moderator


Session Time
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Key Messages:

  • AI can contribute to personalised learning, support inclusion of children with disabilities, enable quicker processing of data in health and education, but can also cause unintended biases that can have negative outcomes for children. Machine learning decision making is affected by the data systems and algorithmic design both of which depend on humans to create and in order to eliminate these biases we need stronger awareness and monitoring by all those who are involved in the design and the deployment process.
  • Children and youth also need to be engaged in the process of the development and deployment of AI technologies.
  • Guidelines on AI technologies that take children rights into account are needed not only for the government and the private sector but also for parents and educators.


There was a general consensus that this is an emerging area where more information, case studies, research is needed. Forum participants identified key gaps in research relating to representation/ case studies from the Global South, and agreed that greater emphasis on inclusionary and representative approaches to research. Participants suggested that private companies who are interested in advancing child rights (and consulting with young people in the process) could be key partners in this work (e.g. Telecompanies like Telia that have engaged youth panels). The discussion around how to better integrate young people in the AI design and development processes led to questions around how to adequately and inclusively represent young people given constraints such as: a lack of publically available data on children (especially in the global south), and the difficultly in engaging a representative sample of young people in consultative processes. UNICEF invited all the participants to contribute to building the agenda on Children and AI, to share their lessons and experiences and to work jointly on finding solutions.

Next Steps:

UNICEF explained the work currently under development i.e. the scoping of literature, documenting case studies, analysing trends which can inform the consultation with various stakeholders in order to develop a road map for the next few years. Our aim is also to develop policy recommendations for different stakeholder groups- including government, private sector, and parents/caregivers.