The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: To start with, I'd just like to introduce myself, Beeban Kidron, I'm the leader and founder of an organization called frights and it's been my opinion that it has not been on children's rights and that we felt it would be transformative. I know the committee, that we are very fortunate to have a member with us and we have. They had been thinking about, what was it? What would be the value in undertaking? Now, I am very, very proud of the people on the panel for today.
They are a very expert group, and they are going to take you through a number of things that we're doing on the journey to creating a general comment on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and I'm going to start by asking Jutta to tell us what a general comment is, how it impacts on the Convention and why it's such an important document.
>> Jutta, if you have a problem, just step up.
>> JUTTA CROLL: No, it should work. So, I prefer to sit here with my colleagues together. Thank you, Beeban, for giving me the floor and for the kind introduction. I had a bit to rewrite what I wanted to say because we already had a session this morning in the high level internet governance exchange would be safety and the right of protection, and we got some additional input on that as well, discussing whose responsibility and whose liability it is also to keep children safe.
But, firstly, I would like to speak about why we are in need of a general comment right now. Those of you who are familiar with the IANA Convention on the Rights of the Child will know that a week ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary. Thirty years ago, the same year when the UN went public, the internet somehow went public. That was the moment when Tim Berners remade it accessible for the public so the internet was made accessible to everybody. But, nonetheless, nobody could imagine 30 years ago how fast, how quickly and how broadly children would take up on the internet and make use of it.
So, what has changed over the last 30 years?
I would say the perception of children has changed. The perception of children as having agency, playing an active role in society and also being perceived as autonomous actors.
You just need to look at the Fighters for Future, and you will see that children are making use, are exercising their rights.
It's not the time and the place to discuss here whether these developments are related and interconnected with each other. But, still, I do think we need some more research in this regard. What we can say now, and what makes most pressing that we need the general comment on children's rights in the digital environment now is that the internet has a huge potential for the realization of children's rights.
Usually, clustered as rights to freedom to protection, and to participation or you could also say protection, provision, and participation. In each of these areas, we have rights where the impact of digitization is most obvious. For example, Article XVII, access to information. It's obvious that children have access to information now via the internet.
Or take Article XIII, freedom of expression. Of course, the internet is the means of exercising freedom of version nowadays. But, also, we have Article XVI, the right to privacy, and article XV, freedom of association. Again, I'd like to refer to the Fighters for Future where we with can see that children exercise these rights. In all these cases, digitization empowers students to access their rights. But, I would say, we can do better. Not all children are in the occupation to do so and not all stakeholders are aware of the opportunities digitization offers to children.
So, that's also a reason why we need a general comment now to make people aware of these opportunities.
And last, but not least, I would like to mention Article XII, which is my personnel favorite in the UN Convention. That is, the right to be heard. But, being heard only can be harnessed, the potential of this article can be harnessed if, when, what is heard is also be put into action. So, we need to ensure that children's voices are heard, and that their voices are taken into account when decisions are taking place.
As Article III, in all matters, that affects children.
And I do think there is no doubt about that the internet is something that affects children and most obviously many children. We know from research that Sonia has done with several colleagues that one of the things used in the internet development world are under age 18 and it comes to one and two when we look at rest of the world.
So, nobody can deny that the internet affects children. So, therefore I'd like to advocate that we use the general un comment to unearth the potential and the general comment will be a big step towards that goal. Thank you.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Thank you very much, Jutta. I think it's worth saying that the journey of creating a general comment is a complex matter and that already, you see us when we're about half of the way through the process.
So, we've already had a public consultation which over 200 organizations around the world and we've also had a worldwide consultation with children which you're going to hear something about in a bit. And we've had an expert group in London on, people from every possible corner of the earth coming to give their opinion.
But, as you will all know that the digital is a very cross‑cutting issue and this is a very high-level document so I'm going to actually call upon Sonia to both introduce herself and explain the process since she is leading the charge in the authoring of the general comment.
>> SONIA LIVINGSTONE: Okay. Thank you, Beeban and colleagues. It is lovely to have a chance to explain this process and not so much to a child rights community, though, I know that many here are from the child rights world, but in the context of an internet governance forum where a number of us will know that over recent years we've been working together to try to bring questions of children's rights to more visibility within the internet governance world.
So, my colleagues have kind of explained what we're doing and I'm here speaking as an academic, as a researcher, and my project Global Kids Online has produced a lot of the evidence about how the internet is bringing both risks and opportunities into children's lives across all continents and increasingly, all countries.
So, it's, there are many challenges in trying to write a document. For those who don't know, a general comment is 10,700 words, give or take about five, but not more than that.
It's not very long for an academic. It's quite long, perhaps, in some policy terms.
But, we're trying to pack a lot in because the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child already has 41 articles with detailing many important dimensions of children's lives. And the digital environment touches all of those.
And there lies a challenge. And as Beeban Kidron just said, the digital is very cross‑cutting and very fast‑moving in its impact.
So, I think it's really important to say that we already have lots of human rights as they apply to children that we are dealing with. We're not here in the inventing new digital rights. The question is, how do existing rights, fundamental rights, important human rights apply in the digital world and how do we apply those to children?
And it will already be apparent to you that the world is a very diverse place and there are many parts of the world where access is the key issue and when we consult children, as Amanda will say, access is absolutely critical.
And then there are other parts of the world where access is already taken for granted but some of the cutting-edge technologies are posing new and different kinds of challenges.
And what's interesting in relation to both of those, access and the cutting edge developments is that often it's discrimination and the right not to be discriminated against which kind of comes to the fore, and some, one issue that we're thinking hard about is how to ensure that the right to not be discriminated against also includes not discriminated on the grounds of age.
So, the general comment is going to offer guidance, it will be a document coming from the Committee on Rights of the Child, so, we are, as you say, ghost writing in their name. And it will offer guidance with implementation beginning with the four fundamental key principles on the Convention on the Rights of the Child which is, as I say, nondiscrimination. The question of the best interest of the child which interestingly in relation to the digital world really requires that we always keep in balance children's right to protection and their right to civil rights and freedoms and we always think of them as rights holders and as agents but with specific vulnerabilities also.
The third fundamental principle, the right to survival and development, I think, is inspiring in a digital world in the sense that Article XXIX says the child has the right to their fullest development. And we must ask ourselves in a digital world, what does that look like?
And the fourth, which Mason and Amanda will talk about, is the right to be heard, which is not the right to be consulted but the right to have what you say acted upon, to be heard and acted upon.
And then, there are many other rights as Jutta has already mentioned that we will be interpreting. So, for example, Article XV. The right of privacy. In the digital world, this is translated into data protection regulation and that works and it doesn't work and we need to kind of think through, how do we make that translation from a fundamental right to the practical tools that are available to states?
You wave at me ‑‑ Okay. I think there are many challenges, and I'm sure the challenges for states are already apparent to you. Perhaps the biggest is the challenge of the commas. The challenge that the digital environment is underpin by the operation of enormous corporate infrastructure, which is often beyond the capacity of many states small and large, rich and poor, too, as it were, to bring to account.
It's also a challenge to rely upon parents and caregivers and this might be the state's kind of normal go‑to hope that in relation to particular areas of children's rights, the parents would play a role. And parents want to play a role in relation to the digital environment.
But, they feel profoundly disempowered in ways that they have not so disempowered in many other areas of their children's lives.
I have to say, that writing a document for states, I think a challenge for child rights organizations is that sometimes the states themselves are the problem. In relation to children's rights in the digital environment.
And states, too, around the world, can violate children's rights or be overly restrictive or fail to support the rights of children and we hear especially when we hear from children in different parts of the world, we will hear that call both on companies and also on states.
And there are a number of contentious areas there around surveillance, partner children as political actors, around children's rights to Secretary‑General information and education about provision for disabled children and whether we should ban mobile phones in schools. There is a long, long list of issues in which states are both problem and solution.
So, perhaps just to end by saying that when we held the consultation, it was very heartening to receive many responses from around the world and perhaps from some of you in this room. We receive twice as many responses as we were expecting and they were full of quality ideas, suggestions, evidence, consultation with children, and overwhelming emphasis on the importance of balancing children's rights, civil rights and freedoms with the importance of child protection.
And really being sure that we find a way of phrasing the general comment such that some rights of children are not prioritized at the expense of others.
What will happen next is that the Committee on the Rights of the Child will review, revise, and release the draft for a further process of public consultation and I think my last point might be to say, we would really love those in the innovation community to get involved Internet Governance community to get involved.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Thank you, Sonia. You can see why we're well informed. Now, our next speaker informed me this morning that he can only be considered a child for three more days, technically. But at moment, he is our spokesperson on the right to be heard. I just want to say, and I hope he's going to speak about this a little bit himself. But I first saw Mason and some of his friends at another event where they played a film about a podcast that they had invented and that they were creating and that they were putting out and it was the most moving and touching film.
It was the most moving and touching, not performance, but authoritative statement about how they felt they were not being heard so I am very pleased that Mason has chosen to join us. The floor is yours.
>> MASON RIKARD: Good afternoon. Thank you so much for having me here today. My name is Mason Rikard. I'm 17 years of old and I'm part of a youth organization called the gifted young organization. Now, we meet on a weekly basis, both myself and my peers and we talk about what it's like to be a young person in modern society. Now, not only do we talk about the positives, we talk about the negatives, the successes, and the failures.
We don't just want to talk about this on a specifically perspective, we try to delve deep into the taboo topics which many young people struggle to express in public. With that, we really wanted to create a vast platform and reach many people and as a result, we created a podcast service called Thrive which I think is quite self‑explanatory in the title what we want to achieve. Part of this project was to attend an expert consultation which in London, recently, which aimed to add a general comment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. And we spent the entire day surrounded by legal experts, and it was fantastic to see how passionate these people were to fighting for young lives and the protection of them online.
And it made us realize that just the event happening in itself, lots of different people, experts from across the globe coming into one building to talk about this, shows that we're already winning this battle. Our voice has been heard.
And as a result, we have now taken the first step into improving the rights of the child.
And this all links back to the right to be heard, article XII. Which is just so important and it really does reflect how young people who account for one‑third of the population not only physically, but also online, one‑third of the population.
And the fact that our voices are now being heard is fantastic. As you mentioned, Beeban, I will be becoming 18 in eight days' time and as a result, despite being very daunting perspective, I will no longer be considered as a child and that made me reflect recently and think about my life as a young person and my childhood.
And it made me think, should 18 year‑old Mason have the same rights in the digital environment as ten year‑old Mason?
Now, ten year‑old Mason has just received his first iPad for Christmas. And with that, he's about to discover the world of social media, of the internet, and of the digital environments. But, the issue is, ten year‑old Mason lacks the maturity to understand at this stage what the digital environment entails. He doesn't have the full education yet to understand what is right or what is wrong online. Not only this, but he doesn't have the experience of making errors online and rectifying those mistakes.
So, as a result, coming back to the question, should 18 year‑old Mason have the same rights as ten year‑old Mason? No.
Because they are different and because by the time ten year‑old Mason becomes 18 he will be able to make the decisions himself considering the morality of these without having to be sort of, having his rights purveyed by a major tech giant which is really important.
When we're talking about this as young people representing one‑third of the population in events like this, the IGF. I look around and I see so many adults. This entire event, most of the panelists have been adults, but what really gets me is that this is also about young people and young people need to be heard, they need to have this representation, which I think it's fantastic that I'm here today.
But we need more. We need more young people. This links back to what we need to do with regard to the social legislation. Whether that be the next general comment, that young people's voices are heard. Thank you.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: I'm looking forward to the 21 year‑old and the 25 year‑old and beyond Mason. Thank you so much, that was fantastic. Now, Mason was not the only young person we consulted. In fact, we consulted many more and I'm going to ask Amanda to come and talk about the children's consultation that she staffed.
>> AMANDA THIRD: Thanks, and good afternoon. And it's a terrible, terrible honor to have to follow a young person who speaks so competently without notes. I am going to use notes because I do want to stay faithful to what the children in the consultations told us. You know, I guess in this field, in the lead‑up to the development at this general comment, we have held, since 2014, a series of extensive consultations with children internationally, and in fact, in over 40 countries, and predominantly, in the Global South.
To better understand their experiences of the digital age and their hopes and aspirations for a future that's mediated by the digital.
Building on these insights, between May and September 2019 this year, this general un comment team with funding from the 5Rights foundation in western Sidney University undertook with children to directing in the drafting of the general comment. I'm very excited to report that over 600 children from 26 countries on six continents have participated in these consultations and their insights have been embedded nearly half of the first general comment.
So, I want to just briefly share some of the things the children have told us. I will just gesture these things very lightly but please be aware that we are in the process of creating an in depth report which will be available in the first quarter of next year.
So, regardless of their level of access to technology, children are very, very enthusiastic about engaging in the digital environment. They've got very high hopes for the digital future and they point, for example, to the role that digital media can play in leveling the playing field in terms of education and opportunities for work. They're really excited about the potential for technology to be leveraged to tackle the very serious social, political, and environmental issues that our planet and their local communities face.
They see the digital as vital to enhancing their capacity for decision making tendencies both now and in the future. Unfortunately, because we often emphasize this N I ‑‑ because we often dismiss this, I want to emphasize that children say that the digital environment provides them with a really crucial opportunity to enjoy themselves, to have fun and play.
Children have told us they're ready to play a role in making the internet the best it can possibly we and they want states and businesses to provide opportunities for ongoing dialogue about how to realize their rights in and through the digital environment.
But, there are very real obstacles that stand in the way of children maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks of harm associated with being online.
And children are calling, indeed, they're imploring adults to solve these challenges. And they're very clear that states and businesses in particular have key responsibility for overcoming these obstacles.
For many children around the world, as Sonia just did a moment ago, despite the massive growth in children's uptake of digital technology internationally, particularly via mobile phones, access remains the outstanding challenge. Their access is limited by unreliable or inadequate infrastructure, by socioeconomic factors, by government legislation, for example, around censorship, by geography, by education, gender, and things like the rules that parents put in place.
Barriers to access are particularly acute for those children who, for example, live with disability, or who are street children, or who are in conflict with the law.
children also draw attention to the need to support their digital literacy and literacy of their parents to enable them to manage, for example, untrustworthy information or what's being labeled fake news.
Children are angry, actually, that there are not simple ways of understanding who is collecting their data and how that data is being used. They draw attention to a double standard at play. Namely, that adults tell children to do one thing on the internet and then do another thing themselves. They're calling for those adults, adults from heads of state and business leaders right down to teachers and parents to better role model appropriate technology use for children.
And they rally against adults' negative portrayals of children's digital practices. They say the ways adults talk about their digital practices in fact stands in the way of children making the most of their time online and of course, we can't forget that children are worried about a host of potential harms online.
In short, a quick snapshot of this consultation shows us that children have an awful lot to contribute to our debates and our decision making relating to the digital. Their contributions to the process of drafting the general comment remind us that we must listen ever more carefully and consistently to what children have to say. After all, they are the ones who will take charge of the internet into the future. If we want to realize the kind of internet that Sir Tim Berners Lee called for this morning, then we have to commit for envisioning that world for everyone in partnership with children. Thank you.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: So, obviously, a general comment is a theoretical document. It sets out what should be done. But, there's always this bit of a problem about how it should be done. So, it is my great pleasure to invite Alpesh from IEEE to come and tell us a little bit about from theory to practice.
>> ALPESH SHAH: So, first off, I'd like to congratulate those visionaries that helped pull together 30 years ago the CRC. You see, when you think about something that's lasted that long, and has led to ongoing conversations of the type we're having today, that's not an easy thing to do. Actually, that requires great forethought but it also requires the ability to realize what you can and what you can't do. What you understand and what you don't.
And that's where we are today when we think about technology and when we think about the implications of technology. Both overarching, from a human rights perspective, and specifically from a children's rights perspective. And to me, the other duality element to CRC is not only in terms of what it's helped us realize, but it's also helped us understand that moving forward, there are a number of gaps. A number of gaps that we don't fully understand or appreciate. And this is important. This is probably the most fundamental important element of what the CRC has allowed us to understand and recognize.
And I share this as someone who works for an organization whose mission is to advance technology for humanity. I work for an organization, a global one, known as IEEE.
And like everyone else, we see the upside of the technology and technologies as they come. Right? When you think about all the hype words you hear, IoT, blockchain, AI, all of a sudden, you start buying into it. But, as a number of speakers have said both on this panel and others earlier today, we really need to understand, what is the problem we're trying to solve and not just that, we need to understand the potential implications.
And it's not just easy to do when all you hear is, blockchain will provide you the trust that you need. Don't worry about it. AI will solve your problems. It will lift you up and change your economy. But how? How does this work. When we think about new technologies and bringing the practical nature from theory or as we call it from principles to practice, it's quite important that you have representation from a number of different parties but more importantly, or I would say, as importantly, you need the right governance mechanism to allow for it.
One that allows diverse viewpoints to be engaged. You heard Mason describe the importance of being involved and we fundamentally believe this is important. And you'll hear much over the next several days about the Global South and I don't think anybody would disagree with the increased for their representation as well.
So, what type of process would allow for this? Yeah, you're talking quite large, many diverse viewpoints P. exactly who want, but, at the same time, how do you manage to get it done. And then, beyond this, when we talk about these technologies, all the haves and have‑nots, economically speaking, this is a power story. When we talk about AI and ethics, when we talk about all of these things, it's a story of power. It's not a story of technology.
So, from our perspective, and I should say, specifically, from my perspective, technology is good, technology can be bad. It's malleable. The piece that makes technology powerful is the ideas. It's the ideas that help the technology work. It's what makes it useful.
You heard Mason's story about the use of podcast but also the more important part to me of why it's so great is he's pulled the community together. That's the advance element behind it. Everybody is in podcast. But, no one has given the forethought to what they're doing to have these intellectual conversations but then start to discuss, how do we turn this into practicality. What they're doing is a great example of this.
I think there's another element that's important as well when you talk about applying principle to practice. It's very easy for us to judge companies. I would share that as a formal small business owner.
One of the challenges I had was when new companies came about, and how could I keep up with the cost of it? It's not easy. It is my estimation that probably 85 percent of the companies out there are quite interested in abiding and doing the right thing. It's difficult to do when you've already started going down the path.
And for the new ones that are just starting to merge, your focus is around economic viability. You latch on to the juggernauts. So, how does this work? And what we think about here is, number one, let's invite organizations to be part of the design bros. That includes small and midsized businesses as well. There's more to them than the large size. If we use them as an example, Silicon Valley is a mechanism for large institutions. Incentivizations payoff. It's something to think about when we think about a lot of this. When we think about, how do we bring folks along on our journey. Let's help these organizations achieve the outcome that we want to see. Let's develop sandboxes from a policy perspective as well as a technology perspective that allow these companies to experiment, and so we can understand the implications.
If your immediate return is driven by shoaled value over the next quarter, you have little shareholder value over the next quarter, you have little incentivization to do things in small stages. You're better to say, we'll get to it eventually. That's tough.
Offering the ability for these organizations to work immediately with both governments as well as children and young adults in this specific case offers an opportunity to take a very much of a design first process here. By putting the practice right into the theoretical. And I don't know about you, but when I was in college and even in prior to that, I learn best through application. I didn't learn, you know, in theory, if I showed up for class because everyone learns differently. Everyone takes information in differently. We all see things differently. Yeah? And so the implication of putting something out there that a diverse group of individuals can't understand, a diverse group of stakeholders can't understand, sets it up for failure. It sets it up to be too much of a challenge, and it results in greater litigation, greater waste, greater inability to realize the future that we want to see.
Finally, I'd add that none of this was probably shared this morning in terms of my talk and I'm terrible with going off script but I will say that standards, open source, both from a philosophical perspective as well as a framework perspective start to demonstrate mechanisms that can be utilized in multi‑stakeholder platforms. There are different things one can take advantage of to realize successes. For example, today, the baroness has a framework for children. P39. We've got a host of activities around ethics and AI including certification proof concepts because we realize that simply just telling folks about this stuff is going in one ear and out the other. They're great paper weights but they don't do much else. So, I'd like to just end with the fact that number one I represent a fairly large and substantial technological community. We've got over 430,000 members in over 127 countries and global reach in these areas.
Let us know how we can help support the success of both the CRC as well as other initiatives you have because we have a ton of folks that have really good understanding and appreciation about short‑term and long-term view but we're only a piece of the puzzle.
And the last point I'd add here is that, it is incredibly, incredibly, incredibly important that from this point on, we include children and young adults not only in the design process, but they should have a direct voice in the development of the policies because if you leave it to the filtration system, a lot of things get lost when it finally comes time for it to go into law. Then you are only designing it for your needs, not theirs. So, it's time for us as adults to make a decision.
If we can't do the job, then let's shit or get off the pot. Thank you.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: So, I am very much hoping that you will have some questions but I have one last speaker who was not planned, but we are hugely privileged to have a member of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with us today. And with that committee and with that committee's commitment to ‑‑ without that committee and without that committee's commitment to this idea, we would not be doing the general comment and this work would not be undertaken so, please, would you welcome, Gerhart.
>> Thank you very much, Baroness. I'm very glad to be here this afternoon. And after listening for, to the eloquent presentation from the potential general comment from the previous speakers, I would say, as it was said. Five days ago, we have celebrated the 30th anniversary on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Of course, all of you knows about the Convention. Yet, it is the largest Convention in the whole world in terms of the number of State Parties to this Convention. 198 states are party to this Convention. No other Convention in the whole world has this big number. So, states are putting the rights of children as a priority to them. What have we done after thirty years? Yes, there are some achievements. Slow. But, there are. They are not as rapid as the development of the digital world. That's what we want to see, at least within the next ten, 20 years.
So much talk about digital world and digital environment and the development. Yet, there are many children who still have no access to internet. There is a digital divide between developed and developing countries. And our aim and goal in the committee is to emphasize the importance of access for all children to internet. Because, there is much benefit for children when they have access on the internet in terms of knowledge, in terms of education, and many other aspects in this respect.
And the most important issue here is also the benefit yet the protection of children.
Because there are some drawbacks from using the internet, and we have seen it at the committee, when we have seen that children are being recruited by terrorist groups, extremist groups, and recruited for sexual exploitation. Bullying on the internet and so on and so forth.
How to protect children while they are using the internet. It is the responsibility of all the stakeholders, but, above all, the responsibility of states.
And this has to be underlined because states are the party to the Convention. They have the priority responsibility in order to establish laws and regulations.
And laws and regulations for everybody. For the companies. For the internet providers. For parents, for schools. For healthcare providers and so on and so forth. The first step is to put guidelines and guidance to states of how to use the general comment and how to develop an environment that is beneficial for the children.
Safety and liability. Safety for children. Liability of all stakeholders that are involved in providing the internet, involved as, who is violating the privacy of children? Everybody. Parents. States. Providers. The internet. And schools. Health services. Even, sometimes, children themselves are violating the privacy because they don't know how to protect themselves.
And this is a very important issue, that the general comment is it also providing for. And I think I may stop here, and listen to your questions. Thank you.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: So, I do hope that you do have questions. This is a fantastic panel and I hope that you understand the seriousness of the thinking that is going into this general comment and the breadth of who has been consulted.
So, does anyone have a question? And I haven't worked out ‑‑ excellent. I'll come to you. Can I ‑‑ Mason, you can hear him? Thank you.
>> Yeah, hi, my name is Amitab. I work on digital parenting in India and I have an organization called Media Matters. Actually, my question is for the panelist who has run away with the mic.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Oh, he's coming back, don't worry.
>> So, yeah, it's to Mason and everybody else as we saw from the points that you made. Where do you see the role of the parents? It was very clearly said that they feel very disempowered and in India, because of the digital divide, it is even disempowerment of a very high state. So, what do you think? What does ten-year‑old Mason think and what does eighteen-year‑old Mason think?
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Actually, I'm going to ask this lady to give questions, too, and then everybody can answer.
>> Thank you very much, indeed, my name is Aria Clapenburg and I'm actually the representative of the European Parent Association. My question goes in the same direction. How can we actually empower the parents to be the best parents possible and to help their children found their way through the internet because what we see very non our surveys is that, well, well, the children know better than we do and we find out that's not the case, actually. So, I think we need to educate the parents in this aspect. That will not be the case for the generation after us, I guess.
They will have been brought up that way and they will probably have more knowledge but for the time being, I think this generation still needs to be educated in order to take on this role.
And the other question that I was going to ask is, how do you see how the states can actually help the parents? This aspect? Because we are doing this from parents organization sites so, this is voluntary work. We are trying to provide our parents with the necessary tools and instruments they need but I think that the states could do a lot more in this aspect.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Fantastic. I'm going to ask Mason to answer, Sonia to answer, and Amanda, also, in that order.
>> MASON RIKARD: Thank you for those questions. I guess, with regards to parents, as a young person, I'm always around my parents. I've not left home yet. And I think on reflection, there's a lot to do with this stereo type with regards to the internet, the fact that your parents are older, so it seems that they have a more traditional view or that they may not understand this up and coming rapidly moving source of technology.
And it's all around us. And as a result, there's a lot of confusion, I personally believe, around what the parents' role should be.
But, just in general, I think one of the main improvements, an easy and simple improvement between parents and children is communication between the two. Making sure that one understands what the other is doing. They understand what they're giving them. For example, as I use my knowledge of the iPad Christmas present, understanding what that actually entails and what the child can use from that sort of technology.
And yeah. I think communication is the big one, for me. Yeah.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Sonia?
>> SONIA LIVINGSTONE: Yeah, I absolutely agree. Communication is the key. I'm going to disagree that this is a generational problem and that it's going to go away. I actually think that as long as technology is with us, which is all we can foresee, there will be the next challenge and the next challenge and today's children will be tomorrow's parents and they will have new challenges upcoming.
So, yes, communication is crucial, and yes, we want to do all we can to mobilize parents and inform them and make them feel competent and so forth.
But, they are facing an enormous task and there has to be responsibility of on both States and businesses to ease that task, both in they having and making sure that things are interpretable, that the digital world is, as it were, legible, manageable, but, also, in putting real choices before parents so that, because, at the moment, they, like their children, are faced with the choice of either going online and take your risk and face it, or being excluded.
And this binary, this incredibly stark choice is very difficult for parents as well as for children. And we have to have, we have to evolve a more graduated nuanced world in which you can choose to be part of some parts of the internet and not parts of others or you can be part on some terms, let's say, to participate with your friends, without losing control over all your data in perpetuity.
So, we're living in a world of stark choices at the moment, and it makes everyone feel disempowered and that's, I think, what states and businesses have to work together to change.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: I'm going to ask Amanda and then Jutta to answer this question but anybody who has the next question tell me, and brilliant, Amanda.
>> AMANDA THIRD: So, well, not a lot to add after what my colleague already said except to say that I think that States and businesses can think much more creatively about the way that they provide for parents.
And just to give you a quick example, sort of pulling off Mason's comment around communication, some work that my colleagues and I around western Sidney University have done where we put parents and young people in front of a piece of technology and they've worked together for scenarios that the young people have designed for parents have provided opportunity for the kinds of very, well, first of all, for some amount of skills transfer between young people and parents and I think many parents feel their skills are not up to scratch and we need to develop more creative ways for developing those skills but more importantly, those kind of strategies have opened up ways for young people and parents to have conversations about what it means to live in the difficult wouldn't.
A conversation where they with recognize shared experiences. Parents have walked away saying, oh, I didn't realize that I do the same thing young people do online. We just do them in different places.
So, I think creating opportunities to breakdown these conversations and to give young people and adults of all kinds and I don't just actually mean parents but politicians, business leaders, whoever it might be to actually create some common ground is really critical but that requires thinking very creatively about how we make that happen.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Jutta?
>> JUTTA CROLL: Thank you. I just wanted to remind you to bear in mind that not all families are the same, not all parents are the same and we also need to consider families living in low socioeconomic status, not well educated, or so they might be willing to communicate with their children about the digital world. They might just not be in the position to do so. They can't afford their daily life so they might not have the time to talk to their children and so when we are talking about what is the role of parents, like Sonia said before, they have a lot of tasks. It's a huge burden. And we cannot expect that all families live in that ideal world where they can communicate any situation to their children.
So, also, bear in mind the disadvantaged children.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Can I just also put one other thought in your minds about parent situations? We are in a situation where sometimes the platform or service or thing that the child is using knows more about the child than the parents and this is something we have to think about, about where the knowledge lies.
They might know where they are or how long they sleep for or what their burgeoning sexuality is from some of the data things going on so we have to put the platform in this conversation about parents and children. You can't just leave parents and children alone in that conversation.
Which is something, I think, that gets missed. There was a gentleman over there who has a question.
>> Yeah, I guess this is potentially a controversial question further down the line. How would you consider the definition of a child as it is right now? It's quite arbitrary. I believe you might just be, Mason, specifically, you might just be behind the cutoff to vote in the next election. Is that the case?
>> I made it.
>> You made it. Congratulations. So, ages, quite obviously, one of the easier metrics to decide upon and I feel like maybe it's a bit old‑fashioned to consider 18 as the threshold. Should you be classifying children as subclassifications? A young child? An adolescent? Is that something that's relevant? And is age the only measure.
What Jutta just brought up about socioeconomic status. Mason, I'm assuming you're from a fairly well-educated private school. Judging by your build, it's either cricket or tennis. Could be wrong.
>> MASON RIKARD: Completely wrong.
>> Okay. Good. Because that's what I wanted to hear. Because at a lot of these events that I've been to, it's, you know, even when they're representing children, it's privileged children. You know, it's children who I feel just don't really know what it's like to be a poor kid growing up. So. How should we classify children?
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: So, I think it's a really interesting question. Everyone is burning to answer it but can I say from a 5Rights perspective, we do not work with private schools. We work with all public schools and the people who represent us are hugely mixed in every which way.
>> Yeah, I just do want to clarify because I think, you know, you're making a really valid point. It's a very important question. And as we think, you know, about the numbers of children coming online in the Global South, for example. You know, we really need to center those children's experiences.
So, I just wanted to underscore that in relation to the development of the general comment, we have reached out to 26 countries in, you know, the majority of which, I think, 95 percent of which, are in the so‑called Global South.
And we've sought to work with child‑facing organizations who work with very vulnerable children in some circumstances, to really try and understand their experiences. And what's more is that we haven't been satisfied in this consultation simply to do a kind of tick the box consultation.
You know, hey, kids, do a survey. But we've spent time. Three-to-five hour long workshops with children where we use creative participatory methods to really explore their situation in a much more in depth way to explore the architecture of very informed children to inform this particular document.
And I think what's very interesting coming out of that is that there are some instances in which those children's experiences are very different from a child who lives in the global north and comes from a middle-class background but there are also some very strong commonalities.
So, as we go forward, we need to be particularly mindful of making sure that our initiatives very much target the children who most need support whilst also thinking about how to gain the greatest possible benefit for the greatest number of children around the world.
So, it's a very difficult job, I think, to balance that task but certainly those children are very much on our radar and very much driving the thinking behind the comment.
>> Sonia, will you just do the definition of a child because I think it's a really important point.
>> SONIA LIVINGSTONE: So, in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the article, the child is defined as between zero and 18. Of course, it's arbitrary. Of something has to be said. But, arbitrary is not, it's still useful. And it's useful because it says there are a third of the world is under the age of 18. That's a lot of people, and as soon as you begin to think, how do we provide for their rights and ensure the realization of their rights, you immediately face all of those questions you think about.
So, article 2 of the Convention is the right not to be discriminated against.
In other words, to take account of all the ways in which children, people, are different.
So, immediately, run 92 that diversity, and then a very important article is that children should be addressed according to their evolving capacity and if you try to make a rule that says they should have this at ten, and this at 17, whatever. Evolving capacity is annoying because it doesn't give you a single guideline but if you're trying to think, how do we do the right thing by children N all their diversity, recognizing that their capacity is both developmental and cultural and contextual, then, it's a really, really important principle. Because it says you cannot make a blanket rule, as, for example, the General Data Protection Regulation just did in Europe because children are different and that is precisely what the Convention says you have to address.
I don't say it's easy but that is the driving principle.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Is there anyone who is ‑‑ yes, Gerhart is going to speak. Is there anyone who is going to ask a question? Can I see a hand? Yes. Okay. Thank you. You go first, we're just getting the mic.
>> Well, as it's said, Article I in the Conventions. Yet, I have been on the committee for eight years now and we usually meet with children during our consideration of State party. Eight years ago, most of us in the committee were of the view that voting age for children should be 18 and not less than 18.
Or vote some children, we have met were asking to lower the voting age for them to 16. But, we refused. Yet, just two years ago, continue meeting with children, we discovered that children are getting more and more mature.
Why? I think because of the digital world. Because of the internet. Because of the knowledge they are getting from the internet.
And we came to the conclusion at the committee that we are going to promote lowering voting age to 16. Because of that.
So, it is an issue of maturity. Of children. They are no longer to be left not to listen to them.
It is the most important issue as has been said many times, the right of children to be heard.
Coupled with this, it's the responsibility of adults to listen to children. And listening to children is the most important aspect, and again, again, we, every day, we discover that children are getting more and more mature. Sometimes. Sometimes, I would say, much more mature than some adults. (laughter)
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Thank you. Actually ‑‑
>> Yes, me. Is it working, yes? Hi, my name is Suzanne and I run Kids Past around not yet the world, but hopefully, one day, a global manifestation for children and I created this in Sarajevo after the world to bring communities together. So it's a nonformal educated event somehow and we were getting into the question of the internet and the dangers because what you all said is the benefit, the huge benefit, r and the huge danger, and the parents who are confronted with this question, and so, what we did in our festival was running workshops for the police on these two points, the benefit and the danger for parents and children, but, there's one point that maybe you could address. A third point which me as a mother, made me very uncomfortable, and that is privacy.
Because I want to protect my child. I have to check on the time and the content of its internet. So, the best way is obviously dialogue, communication with your children if you have the time and right mind‑set but sometimes it's not really possible because children are feeling ashamed of what they did on internet. Or surfing at midnight when they should be sleeping.
So, how can we the address this conflict of privacy and protection within keeping the usefulness.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Thank you. Who wants to ‑‑ who dares tackle that? Yes?
>> Yeah, it's a difficult question and I think, many parents and children are wrestling with exactly that. I think what we hear from children and young people and Mason may or may not agree, is we cannot infantilize children and keep them safe until their 18th birthday and thin say, now you are free to make all your decisions. We have to find a way somewhere between zero and 18 in which we trust as parents they have learned and are resilient.
And I recognize it's hard, but parents are used to doing this in relation to rote safety, they're used to doing it in relation to strangers in the real world, they're used to doing it in relation to advertising and other media.
We have found ways in history of doing this. I don't say we always do it well. Many bad things happen to children. They do get killed on roads. It's not straightforward. But somehow each parent has got to find that balance because if the child doesn't trust the parent, they will not tell them and they will deceive. And if the child doesn't grow up to do it by themselves, you have a disaster on 18th birthday plus one so it's got to be faced.
>> I also want to say that not all dangers that we know about really cause harm to our children so we need to differentiate between the risk of harm and the harm that happens to our children so that's the danger that's much more than really happens. I don't want to diminish that but still we have to keep that in mind. And also, like Sonia said, you also learn by experience. Children learn by experience. And we also need to take the providers and companies into account because they also need to guide this process. The children growing up learning how to experience. Facing risks, being empowered to be resilient against these distant harms, it's a curve like growing up and then becoming more and more confident, more and more resilient, and being able to cope with present dangers.
>> And I think Mason wants to.
>> MASON RIKARD: Yeah, just quickly, there's a lot to do with trust in this situation. And it's all about, I think, finding a compromise because all families differ, the relationships between the parents and the child. With that, you can't exactly create a set guideline as to how it's going to be regulated, how the internet use of their child will be controlled.
And I don't like to use the word controlled because it seems almost as if the parent is oppressing the child whereas the child should have the right to use online platforms. But, it's a lot to do with compromise and a lot to do with finding a middle ground between the parent and the child which I think is really important.
>> I think most important is the trust. Build trust between parents and children. And it is the responsibility of the parents to establish such trust. When we talk about children have the right to be heard, where did this right start? At home? This is where it starts at home. When parents listening to their children. Giving them the opportunity to express themselves freely. Not telling them like most of us did with children. At certain point in time, you're telling them, Okay. You are still small. You don't understand. You will understand when you grow up.
It is not the problem of the child. To continue to be patient for the children. Listening to them, just listening to them even if they are wrong. Only listening to them give the child confidence that there is somebody listening to him or her. That they are being heard. And it builds this confidence. Then, they won't have as many secrets from their parents if they are used to talk to their parents freely.
Now, there are, unfortunately, some technical tools where parents can monitor children activities on the internet. Without the knowledge of the children. If the child would know that, it is becoming a serious problem.
But it happens.
And because parents are worried about their children, and they continue to be worried and I can't blame them if they are worried but they have to do it in a way to gain the confidence of the child and make the child, give the opportunity to then to talk to them.
And parents to listen to them.
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: And can you both speak quickly because I want one more question.
>> I can. Very quickly. Children around the world say they want nothing more than to be trusted by the adults in their lives. That's parents, teachers, and every other adult they come into contact with and I see that is really very crucial to their capacity to use the internet well.
And the other thing that I would just underscore is that, again, the point around role modeling for children. And this is not just about parents in the parent child, as my colleague said earlier, we do place a lot of ‑‑ on the parents. States and institutions and organizations need to be modeling these things for children you, explaining things, the implications what happens when their data is used.
I can't say this strongly enough. The organizations and institutions that govern children's lives need to take responsibility for showing children how to do this well.
>> ALPESH SHAH: So, I know I just spent a good amount of time saying let's be careful with technology. But, when I was growing up, we had about 15, 20 people living in our house. And for us, we always had someone else to speak to instead of our parents if we wouldn't comfortable talking about something.
You know, uncles and aunts always served as good folks you could bounce off of but they wouldn't judge you and what we see occurring more and more is the evolution of AI agents starting to play this role of intermediary even between parents and children. And this becomes an interesting element because children feel more comfortable sharing information o online. There are organizations that really take into account the importance of privacy and security. Working with BBC and other companies based out of Geneva and I'm happy to talk about that at a later time. I will say to that, we will start to see more technical interventions coming into play where there may be additional augmentation opportunities to support the parent/child dynamic?
>> BEEBAN KIDRON: Is there one more question? We would love to have one more question? No.
Okay. I'm going to say something and then I'm actually going to ask Sonia so close for us. But the one thing that I'm struck by some of the questions, and one of the things that has happened in our journey is that a lot of people talk about this as a binary. As if, how it is now is, it's a great opportunity but there's a lot of harm and actually our experience from children themselves is a little bit more nuanced and they say we love it but couldn't it just do this?
And they actually are more demanding of the system itself a little bit the way that was just explained by Alpesh. They want the system to be, to afford them more privacy, more choice, more authority, and I want to just give you one example is, you know, one of the things that we brought into and I speak as a parliamentarian so I'm taking on, what should states do piece of the question. Is that one of the things p that we notice actually a lot of services. Now, understand it's in the best interest to show real life location at that exact moment. And mostly, the wherein it's happening is to do with ‑‑ or something else or something else but not thoughtfully thinking about the children so one of the things that the general comment can do and one of the things that Sonia's comment is doing is actually really thinking about what the needs of children are, yeah, and where the interference is. A little bit better would actually give parents a great deal more agency and give children a great deal more agency. But children tonight don't experience it as a binary. We don't experience it as a binary. And I think even unless they're very, very desperate parents, don't experience it as a binary.
Anyway, with that, I'm going to thank all the other panelists but I'm actually going to ask Sonia to close conversation. Thank you.
>> SONIA LIVINGSTONE: Well, then, I'm going to thank you. I will, so, to take it up. I would thank you very much for being here and part of our conversation today about children's rights in relation to the digital environment and I want us to, as we leave, to think about transcending a different binary. The events are very important. But, also, the binary between the child and the adult.
And I say this thinking that when I first came to the IGF, which is some years ago now, there was somehow a sense that the internet is really a place for adults not only is it designed for adults but it sort of should be a space for adults and that anyone talking about children is somehow trying to infantilize the internet or kind of shoot its knees so that it becomes less than it could be.
And that is absolutely not what we're here to do. And we're not here to pitch child rights, child protection against adult freedom which is how the binary has been kind of framed in the internet governance literature discourse doer quite a long time.
The question is, how do people live together. Offline, children and adults live together not always well but more or less rubbing along. More or less in the better interests of children. We're still finding ways to do that online and so I invite you as you go out from this room, which, I believe, cares about children's rights, into all the other sessions of the IGF in the days to come, to think, where are the children, is someone here thinking about how children could be part of this discussion, and part of these considerations, are they designing a world in which children are somehow unwelcome or unheard, and how can we make it better that everyone lives together online?
Because the internet is not, the digital world is not an option. And it's not a population for children anymore now than it is for adults. And it's not a matter of turning it off for them or putting them in a safe cotton wool space somewhere where they don't live, they have to live in this world and even if they themselves don't have access, we as adults, as stakeholders are digitizing children. We are putting them into that world and for all of those reasons, I hope you go out and ask awkward questions about children's rights in the days to come. Thank you. And thank you so much to the whole panel and to you.
>> Thank you very much.
(Session was concluded at 17:08)