IGF 2021 WS #210
How the pandemic affects children’s rights and well-being?

Organizer 1: Fabio Senne, NIC.br/Cetic.br
Organizer 2: Ana Laura Martinez, NIC.br
Organizer 3: Maria Góes de Mello, Instituto Alana
Organizer 4: Isabella Henriques, Alana Institute

Speaker 1: Dorothy Gordon, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Ellen Helsper, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Magdalena Claro, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Fabio Senne, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Isabella Henriques, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Ana Laura Martinez, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Fabio Senne, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Social inequality and the pandemic: What can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic context about the relationship between digital inequality and social and economic inequality? Similarly, what lessons can be drawn with respect to the pandemic and Internet-related human rights? What does this suggest about policy approaches for digitalisation and digital inclusion?
Promoting equitable development and preventing harm: How can we make use of digital technologies to promote more equitable and peaceful societies that are inclusive, resilient and sustainable? How can we make sure that digital technologies are not developed and used for harmful purposes? What values and norms should guide the development and use of technologies to enable this?

At its 86th session, the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted its general comment No. 25 (2021) on children's rights in relation to the digital environment. In face of the new international standard for children’s rights in a digital world, the context of the COVID-19 pandemic renewed the debate on how rights and well being of this population is shaped by the health crisis. This roundtable contributes to addressing these policy questions with a specific focus on children, a population with specific developmental characteristics, vulnerabilities and rights. Therefore, it brings children´s rights and, particularly, children´s digital rights, to a focus within the Internet Governance agenda. This WS contributes to these policy questions via the evidence-based reflection about the opportunities and risks for online children - both of which have grown exponentially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic – and linking them to their policy implications.


Targets: One year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost half of the world's students are still affected by the partial or total closure of schools (Global Coalition for Education, 2021). As a significant portion of countries relied on online learning as a mitigation measure, previous digital inequalities are at the core of unequal educational opportunity. Along with educational consequences, health is a key dimension affected by the new scenario, both directly and indirectly, for example via unequal chances of participating in telemedicine. The socio-emotional dimensions of health for children and their intersection with digital inclusion and the pandemic will also be discussed, both from the point of view of the most advanced alternatives for its conceptualization to its policy implications, and grounded on recent data.
It is also well documented that gender gaps are one of the cross-sectional dimensions of digital inequalities and therefore, gender cannot be out left out of the discussions about digital opportunities and risks (SDG 5). 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.


During the COVID -19 pandemic, children have not been the focus of attention, partly due to their lower vulnerability to the disease. However, the disruption of their daily life is unprecedented, ranging from the interruption of their regular schooling, to lower availability of family support programs and childhood and healthcare services, also affecting their socialization opportunities both in the household and community. In this context, more children are online for more time (UNICEF, 2020, among others), with a greater degree of dependence on digital technologies to carry out fundamental activities, such as taking classes, playing, or socializing. As a result, on the one hand, the experience gap between those digitally included and those excluded has most likely widened. On the other hand, for children who do have a digital life, both the associated opportunities and risks have been magnified.
Given both their developmental vulnerabilities and their status as ‘early adopters’ of emerging technologies (5Rights Foundation), children and adolescents are disproportionately affected by the risks of the digital world, which range from greater exposition to cyber-aggressors to the processing of their personal data for commercial purposes. Despite this, there is a great challenge to enforce online the same protections to which children are entitled in the offline world. Also, Artificial intelligence technologies are being used in ways that impact children.
In a context were online participation is, at the same time, so clearly fundamental for the exercise of other children´s rights - therefore, an opportunity - and were the associated risks rise in parallel, it is not only timely but also necessary to discuss these issues in the light of the available evidence, putting together voices from the academia, the civil society, government, international organizations and the private sector from different regions, and to identify effective pathways to realize children´s rights in the digital environment. The roundtable is intended to address these issues by framing children’s rights as principles for decision-making among stakeholders, including the participation of children as an active voice on this debate.

Expected Outcomes

One of the expected outcomes of the roundtable is to raise awareness on the main challenges and opportunities facing children during the pandemic, potentially capable of design specific recommendations on the discussions on children protection and the Internet. Another expected outcome is to develop a roadmap with the main foci of attention for policymakers for the way forward, in dialogue with the SDGs and with a special attention to the most vulnerable and disconnected populations.

The moderator will make a short introduction to the topic and the panelists, followed by key and wide questions to the panelists. Panelist´s interventions will be followed by a round of new questions from the audience, including those that may arrive via the IGF platform or the supporting social media.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: In addition to the organizers's institutional websites, social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook will be used previous to the session, in order to spread the news about it. During the session, Twitter hashtangs will be used to foster interaction with a wider audience. Questions received via any of the platforms will be forwarded to the moderator.