IGF 2020 Lessons learned from the Pandemic: child rights and safety

Wednesday, 4th November, 2020 (07:00 UTC) - Wednesday, 4th November, 2020 (08:30 UTC)
Room 1
About this Session
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, evidence on pattern of online offending, risks to children online, and on prevalence of different forms of online harm was already available however the circumstances created by this crisis seem to have exacerbated the vulnerability of children. The panel will analyze the takeaways of the crisis, how they are related to internet governance and also determine a way forward in relation to the online safety of children for future crisis management.

Child Online Safety

Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

New Online Format
Round Table

The COVID-19 Corona pandemic has put the world’s population in an entirely unique situation. It poses new challenges for people of all age categories. However, if there is one tiny upside, it seems likely that when we come out at the other end of the current crisis a large number of individuals will be more acutely aware of something children have known for a long time. The distinction between analogue and digital, between face-to-face and virtual, is vanishingly small. What does this mean for children's rights, for their freedoms and for the protections they require under the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)?

Evidence has shown for some time that exposure to risks to children increases when they spend larger amounts of time online. These could be in the form of undesirable contacts made through online games, exposure to unsuitable content or dubious purchase offers. These bring to mind the protective rights under UNCRC Art. 17 (protection of minors in the media), Art. 19 (protection against commercial exploitation) and Art. 34 (protection against sexual abuse). And it is necessary to keep in mind that home is not always the safest place for every child. Evidence also shows that most abusers portrayed on child abuse images are from the circle of trust of the victim. In other words, child abuse images for a large part are evidence of intra-familiar sexual abuse. For this and other reasons, certain kinds of risks might be more likely to translate into harms when children and parents need to stay at home in close proximity for long periods of time with no escape route.

Children have a right to education (Art. 28), but in families where adults and children normally share the hardware, it can be hard to reconcile home-based employment-related work and schoolwork. Social disadvantage will be further exacerbated where families lack the necessary technical equipment and enough bandwidth to access the internet at acceptable speeds. When Art. 31 rights to play and to leisure or to participate in art and culture can only be exercised at home because playgrounds and youth recreation spaces are closed, further conflicts and tensions arise and everybody’s patience can be put to the severest of tests. Notwithstanding their need for protection, children also have a right to privacy (Art. 16), even in unusual times like in the middle of a pandemic. A lot depends on the age and capabilities of each individual child but, in principle, children have a right to stay in contact with their friends without their parents or siblings "knowing everything", and they are entitled to know that the contents of their communications are not visible to unauthorised persons.

Whether it is the municipality, the national government or one of its agencies, in the family and wider social environment, the best interests of the child should always have priority in all decision making. This is the basic principle of the UNCRC. This principle remains every bit as valid and important in difficult times, as it does in normal times. In this session we will assess the situation of children’s rights during the crisis in order to learn lessons for the future.

Relevance to IG

The session moderator will ask the following questions considering what governance mechanisms that need to be developed to enable society in advance for future crisis management :

What do we know about children’s situation during the COVID-19 crisis and afterwards?           

Do we have statistical evidence of increased online harm: numbers of cases of grooming, an increased amount of CSAM or self-produced materials as a result of grooming?                             

Has the hypothesis of more screen time leads to more exposure to risks been proven as correct during the crisis?                                                                                                                     

Have children themselves been aware of higher risks and f. e. infringement of their privacy by family members during quarantine?                                                                                             

Have children been able to benefit from the stimulus for digitisation faced during the crisis?     

Which response mechanisms were adopted by agencies and sectors in charge of protecting children?                                                                                                                                           

What lessons should be drawn for the future? How can we prepare?

Expected Outcome:

Lessons learned and insights obtained from the experience of prolonged lockdown both for “normal times” and for extraordinary times in respect of public policy, law enforcement and internet governance concerning the rights and protection of children.

Relevance to Theme

It is estimated that one in three internet users is a child under 18 year old which make children roughly a third of all internet users. Hence, a key element to increase the trust is to ensure that a third of internet users worldwide are safe when connecting and that those with an interest in harming children are detected and stopped on time by proper systems put in place in normal circunstances and in times of crisis. This can happen through the implementation of a series of measures involving a range of sectors such as governments, the tech companies, reporting mechanisms, parents/caregivers, the children themselves and law enforcement. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, evidence on pattern of online offending, risks to children online, prevalence of different forms of online harm was already available however the circunstances created by this crisis have exacerbated the vulnerability of children to online risks and harm. As of today, that is what several agencies are reporting. Hard data will be available post crisis and discussions need to happen to analyse the take aways from the crisis,how they are related to internet governance and also determine a way forward in relation to the online safety of children.


ECPAT International - Marie-Laure Lemineur - Chair DC COS Stiftung Digitale Chancen - Jutta Croll - Chairwoman



  • Baroness Beeban Kidron, Founder and Chair of 5Rights Foundation
  • Professor Amanda Third (PhD), University of  Western Sydney, Australia
  • Ms. Nina Pirk, representative of Nummer Gegen Kummer (German Kids and Youth Helpline).
  • Mr. Cathal Delaney, Head of Team, Analysis Project Twins, EC3, EUROPOL
Onsite Moderator

Marie-laure Lemineur, ECPAT International

Online Moderator

Jim Prendergast, The Galway Strategy Group.


Jutta Croll,Stiftung Digitale Chancen


GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-Being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions