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IGF 2020 – Day 11 – WS 92 Setting Children's Rights in the Internet Governance Agenda

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the virtual Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), from 2 to 17 November 2020. 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. 

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>> FABIO SENNE: Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, everyone, depending on where you are at this moment.  So it's a pleasure to start this session Setting Children's Rights in the IGF Agenda, Balancing Risks and Opportunities.  I'm Fabio Seene from the Regional Center for Studies on Development of the Mission Society at the Brazilian Network Information Center, which is a center of studies producing data on news since 2005.  So we have 15 years of data production in Brazil.  And we are very pleased to moderate this workshop.  I would like to thank this group of very distinguished speakers for their knowledge and large experience how to design strategies to address children's rights in the digital age, which is what we are going to cover today.

Although 1/3 of all Internet users are under 18, according to UNICEF, most regulatory instruments for promoting human rights and data protection may still be vague or do not present specific recommendations aimed at this group.  And besides that, there is no consensus on how to balance protection from on line abuse without restricting opportunities made available by digital inclusion such as access to information and freedom of expression.

So in this Panel, we will mobilize the most of the data evidence on how children the Internet and the impacts of those on specific rights presented by the U.N. convention and the rights of the child, suggested access of information, pre domestic of expression and other Civil Rights and privacy and protection from harm.

So before we start our session, I'm very pleased to announce the rules for our on line intervention.  So each speaker will be given up to 10 minutes for initial remarks and then we will receive your questions to the Q&A tool here, but also you can do it in the chat box.  And we will address them at the end of the intervention roundoff.  This meeting will be recorded.  And first of all, I would like to start by highlighting the main issue that is we will be discussing during the roundtable, considerable debate about when or how children's rights as defined by the United Nation Convention may be realized or infringed or affect the digital age.  Recent evidence on children's engagement with on line environment shows that the more children use the Internet, the more skills they develop and the more activities they can undertake.  But simultaneously, the better digital literacy and safety skills children have, the more they engage in riskier on line activities. 

So the balance between opportunities and risks is among the main challenges for policy making and regulations in this field and especially considering that the scenario is even more nuanced due to the emergence of new technological applications and platforms based on the personal data and artificial intelligence.  A COVID‑19 outbreak highlighted the relevance in these digital technologies in these lights apply while exposing various opportunities regarding the Internet access.  So this roundtable is intended to address issues by framing children's rights as principle for decision‑making among stakeholders, including the participation of children as an active voice in this debate.

So, another relevant opportunity that will be highlighted by this discussion is the inclusion of sound evidence from research to support implementation of those policies and to protect children's rights globally and at the national level.  So continued data collection about children on line experiences on a wider scale is imperative to make government, parents, teachers and everyone else concerned with children's well‑being in a better position to respond to the upcoming challenge.

So among the policy questions, this session I would highlight the most three important ones.  So how can children's rights to participation and access information and freedom of speech be preserved and balanced with the right to be protected from violence, hate speech and sexual abuse in the on line environment?  So how to balance those rights.  How can the evidence available support decision‑making and implementing policies that balance these risks and opportunities.  And also, how can include children's rights in the multistakeholder collaboration arrangements that have put in place in the regions presented by this Panel?  So how can we move practical actions? 

So I would like to introduce our speakers for this session.  First we have Professor Sonia Livingstone, department from the communication at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a very important reference for us in the industry.  We also have Guilherme Canela Godoi, Chief from the Section of Freedom of Information and Safety of Journalists at UNESCO Headquarters.  Thank you for joining us.  We have another International organization participating represented by Maria Alejandra Trossero, the UNICEF in Latin‑American Region.  We also have Amanda Third from the Western City University in Australia.  Thank you for joining us so late night in your country.  And finally, Patricio Cabello from the University of Chile, joining us today.

So let me invite Sonia Livingstone from LSC to start with initial remarks.  So Sonia, how can we really make progress in children's voices at this point of policy making in a world where the challenges are amplified?  So we are seeing the discussion about privacy, data protection, surveillance and so the challenges are huge.  How can we move on this new agenda?  So Sonia, the floor is yours, you have about 10 minutes for your initial remarks.

>> SONIA LIVINGSTONE:  Thank you very much, Fabio.  It's a pleasure to be here and to be taking part in this discussion.  So I'm going to ground my remarks in evidence.  I think evidence is the simple answer to your question, how can we proceed?  And I say that partly because the initial years of any new technology on the Internet especially, often accompanied by a rise of anxieties and myth‑making in which early policy efforts we often see become very kind of fearful or misguided in terms of where focus should be placed.  So evidence, which is now available, I think, is becoming a much better guide for the basis in policy making.

So I'm going to share my screen and give you a sense of the project and the evidence that I'm working from, which is the Global Kids Online project.  Global Kids Online is a collaboration between the LSC, eKids Online project across Europe, UNICEF's Office of Research and Global Partners, which includes the UNICEF country offices around the world and then researchers and policymakers around the world working in many different countries, some of whom are on this meeting today.

So, it is a diverse global and comparative effort at bringing evidence, rigorous, independent evidence, into the debate so that we can make those decisions and advise the policymakers in terms of Internet Governance and related challenges.  So the heart of the Global Kids Online project is a toolkit which allows for anyone to gather good quality evidence and a set of research results in which we try to make that evidence available as straightforwardly and as transparently and openly as possible.

So, our latest report ‑‑ I want to give you a few facts and figures from our latest report, which is a comparison of the findings in 11 countries from different parts of the world.  But before I do that, I just wanted to give it a bit of a framing in terms of the policy by pointing out the way in which the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, which as it were is the organized convention behind the rights of the child, and the way they are trying to been the implementation of children's rights in relation to the digital environment.

This is through the production of a general comment, a kind of short authoritative text that tries to set out how a convention written before the Internet was properly embedded in all of our lives, how that convention really relates to the digital.  And again, a number of us on this ‑‑ in this discussion today are advising on the drafting of that document.  And I hope that many have contributed because it is, in a way, it's a very simple to say children's rights apply in the digital environment, on line and off line in the same way and many have said this.  But in practice, how this really can be done and how this can be made manifest in the digital world is fantastically challenging.  There is certainly one body of opinion that doubts it can be done at all.  But we must find a way.

Children's rights do apply online as offline, even though what we see is the digital environment is kind of profoundly reconfiguring the relation of rights, the expression of rights, the array of rights and rights infringements, which children are experiencing globally.

So the interlink ‑‑ the way in which the digital is now becoming the infrastructure for children's lives, for all our lives, means that there are not only links between the rights, but those links are now digitally mediated in way that is are complex.  So, the question that Fabio asks us in guiding this conversation, how do we balance the risks and the opportunities?  How do we balance the protection and the participation of children in the digital world?  All of these questions of balance and integration are made much more complex precisely because the digital connects and disconnects in way that is are new and changing very rapidly.

So, the evidence I want to kind of focus on, and I'm just going to show you two slides with a kind of snapshot of findings from what is a very detailed report, to illustrate what I see as some of the key opportunities and what I see as some of the key risks.

We have made the slides pretty and communicative to tell a story fast, but I do want to emphasize that gathering evidence on children's experiences in relation to the digital environment in different countries of the world, is a very complex and qualified kind of enterprise.  We have to try to take account of different languages and different life circumstances and different meanings and ways in which the Internet is being appropriated and engaged with around the world.  And none of these things are easy to measure, and they are especially not easy to measure when working with children because there are many ethical and linguistic issues.

So, I don't present these to do anything simplistic but just to give you a sense of how it is one might get evidence on line opportunities.  So he are the on line opportunities reported by children who use the Internet in the countries named.  And the opportunities we listed as you can see on the left.  The countries are along the bottom, the children are Internet users aged between 9‑17.  And there are many things one might say from the findings, and I have two minutes left.  So I won't say the many things except to say we see here a kind of ladder of opportunities where the different opportunities build one on the other.

Some of the things that children do a lot, like watching video clips or visiting social networking sites, might be the kind of first steps on a ladder that could lead to more children doing some of the rarer things like looking for news or creating their own content or engaging in civic participation.  Those are some of the things that I think many would want to encourage more of.  But as you can see, are rather rare.

So a parallel diagram shows you on‑line risks.  Again we asked about a number of risks.  We tend to ask children about risks to the person, less so when you start asking more about data and commercial forms of exploitation.  The countries across the top now are across the top and you can get a sense of the variation across countries in which risks are more reported and perhaps more common and the complexity of mapping the opportunities and the risks by context for different children around the world.  There is no simple picture but clearly, there is it a case to answer.  Clearly there are risks which are experienced at high rates.  Some of these are very severe risks.

We do make a point of distinguishing risk from harm in framing risk as the probability of harm, just like opportunity is the probability of benefit.  And research has yet to be as robust and comprehensive as we would like in really showing how the risks do translate into harm for some children, perhaps more vulnerable, less resilient and understanding the long‑term consequences is key.

So, just to conclude as my time is up, I have skimmed over a number of the challenges that I think the research community faces in translating findings to policy and I hope colleagues will address that, because from the policymaker's point of view, and from the industry's point of view, the digital provider's point of view, there are some real puzzles about identifying children on line, recognizing their age and the vulnerability or resilience of their circumstances, because that isn't always apparent from the policy and practice point of view ‑‑ and as Fabio said right at the start, there are some real challenges in grasping the interconnectedness because as we see, children who gain more access, gain more skills, they gain more opportunities and they also experience more risks.

And the magic that we are trying to look for is the way to provide access and skills to bring children opportunities to exercise their rights on line while protecting them from their risks ‑‑ from the risk of harm.  And I'm going to past that challenge on to whomever is speaking next.  Thank you very much.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you very much, Sonia, for this very inspiring initial words.  I think now I would like to ask ‑‑ access to information, how policies and regulations can protect children's rights and avoid the Civil Rights.  As Sonia mentioned, we have already collected this and at the same time we have a set of opportunities coming such as children's participating on line, producing contents and the freedom of expression in an unprecedented way.  But also hate speech and other problems.  How can we really regulation and policies move ahead?  And I know you are have critical of having a very specific policies ‑‑ not having the scales to really guarantee those rights.  So you have the floor for 10 minutes.

>> GUILHERME CANELA GODOI: Hello, everyone.  Nice to be with you again virtually.

This is a very interesting ‑‑ it was a very expected time of the year for me to be in the IGF and the possibility of meeting all of you in our sessions and also in the corridors.  Unfortunately this year is not possible but I'm glad we are able to do this on line.  To reply to your question, I will divide my 10 minutes in eight points that I think could help us to understand the challenges for policies.

Obviously if we were having this conversation when we first set up this workshop, it was the COVID was not that intense.  It would be completely different discussion.

But after COVID, billions of children were prevented to go to school so they were sent either to on line environment in their homes or to the huge inequalities that we have regarding the same possibilities of interacting on line in different levels of quality, bandwidth, et cetera.  So it's a different perspective.

Point Number 1 is related to the rights perspective.  All those emergency laws that were established to allegedly deal with the COVID situation, attacked directly ‑‑ not necessarily on line with International Human Rights standards.  Some of those rights that we are discussing here today, not only for the children's population but also to the adult population.  Freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, participation.  All those different rights were affected, as I said, not necessarily in line with International Standards of freedom of expression and access to information.

And this helped us in our global laboratory experiments we faced to understand those specific challenges and also to raise new questions.

So the first important point I want to make is that we saw the importance during this last 10 months of those rights, freedom of expression, access to information, to counter some of the problems we are discussing here today, even for children, but also for adult population.  And how the inequalities, the idea of leaving no one behind, can seriously affect the challenges, the opportunities that were put on the table for the technologies.  This is point Number 1.

Point number 2, the policies, even if they are policies issued by governments or by Private Sector or NGOs, et cetera, they will need to go deeper into discussing the concept.  We, as UNESCO, have been looking with huge concern the mix of concepts like hate speech, disinformation, conspiracy theories in the same bag.  And from a specific standpoint of International legislation, those concepts are treated in a very different way, for instance while hate speech leads to violence, this information is treated in a different way.  So when governments are mixing that in the same package of so‑called fake news laws, et cetera, the dangers for the overall rights colliding children's rights is enormous.  And the lack of efficiency in treating those same problems are also huge.  So second point, we need to really develop those concepts better and the voice treating different stories in the same basket, although they have obviously points of contact like the ‑‑ sometimes hate speech is associated with disinformation et cetera.

Third point, we need to empower the relevant gatekeepers here so some of them for the children are the media themselves, journalists, but also the teachers, educators, but nowadays different gatekeepers have come up like the social media influencers that are very relevant for children.  So how these people are playing the role of helping children to navigate to this very complex environment is particularly relevant and it was shown very relevant during these last 10 months.

Fourth point is the role of the industry, the Internet Platform.  Obviously here is huge but I will just mention two things.  One is their role in terms of transparency and the accountability.  I mean, we really don't know what is going to inside the platforms.  And this impacts seriously your question of evidence‑based policy because we are building things here obviously as Sonia has shown with research being built with the children, listening to them, et cetera, but this is a tiny little fraction compared with the amount of data that the platforms have about those phenomena and they don't share with us.  They don't share with the researchers.  They don't share with the policymakers.  And this is a huge problem because what exactly is the size of the phenomena of hate speech or disinformation and how these things reach children if the platforms they build open this, it will be very difficult to evidence‑based policy related to those issues.

And the second point I'd like to make regarding platforms, there are different ‑‑ the different social media and social messaging should also be treated by their specific characteristics.  So for instance the crypto graphic systems like WhatsApp or et cetera, they offer different challenges in terms of the way children and also adults interact where compared to the open ones like FACEBOOK or YouTube.

Fifth element is the gaming industry.

This also has increased enormously during the pandemic.  Children has been playing more on line and some of those challenges, advertisement with disinformation, also hate speech, et cetera and children interacting via the chat embedded in the game, different on line games, is another huge story that we need to research more and better to understand the impacts, positively or negative to children.

6 point is content production.  I have been talking about ministries of education in different parts of the world and evidently they notice that they didn't have enough content to share with children during this immediate necessity to send all those children home to interact with home schooling.  Again, reinforcing inequalities, but also reinforcing the challenges of offering an education that could keep children connected with this new way of doing things.

7th point, since the concept of children under the convention is 18 years old, we have specific challenges that are related to teenagers and other children but I will focus on only one, elections.  In countries like Brazil, children from 16 years old can start voting.  And then the impacts of these challenges, this information, et cetera, for elections and particularly for those children from 16 years old that are able to vote is enormous.  We need to discuss that better.  How children is impacted by this information in several areas, elections is one of them.  Discussions of science and climate changes and others and et cetera and health issues is very important.  I think this was not very well tackled before the pandemic and now we open all these huge problems with this information wave and we will need to go deeper in that.

And finally, the 8th point I think it was underlined very much during the pandemic, although none of those issues are new, is the impacts on children's mental health or all of those phenomena.  And I think still we need more and more research to understand that better and the policies should be better connected.  Mental health in general is a very difficult topic.  It's very badly treated by policies across the border during the pandemic, it shows that we need to go deeper in this discussion.

In terms of policies, we need to balance the things that we are demanding from families and children and we need to be very careful to not put wheat their shoulders demanding too much.  If they were the ones that needed to solve this through all the things that are important like media information literacy, strategies, et cetera, but children and these families are facing a huge phenomena with a gigantic structural problem such as the problems of the platforms or the problems of regulations issued by the governments.  So we need to be very careful in saying the problems need to be solved here are structural ones when compared to the weight we are putting on the shoulders of the families and the children.  Thank you.  Over to you.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you very much for the whole picture you showed to us.  Now I would like to invite Amanda Third in the Western City University of Australia.  And I would like for you to also bring comments on the work you did on children's consultation.  So, not just having children as a matter of research as having their voices included in the debate.  So as we are ‑‑ how did the evidence available on children's practice on line support decision‑makers and implementing policies that can balance recent units?  So Amanda, you have the floor.

>> AMANDA THIRD: Thank you, Fabio, and thank you for organizing this Panel.  It's a great honor to be here with my esteemed colleagues.  Great to see some familiar faces.

Yes, Fabio, I come from the perspective of trying to develop ways to consult with children that really creates space for them to explore their experiences in deep kinds of ways, and to channel qualitative evidence into policy and practice.  So to go to the question around policy and practice, I think a very important thing that we need to do when we are thinking about effective governance processes is actually to design processes for conducting consultation work that pull in not just children who are obviously key on our agenda, but also the organizations that support them to do that work with children.

So part of the process that we have developed is called, digital ‑‑ a distributed data gathering process.  And it involves us developing a very detailed training manual for facilitators in‑country and then those workshops are delivered by personnel, mainly personnel working in child‑facing organizations, around the world.  So the idea is that we build capacity in those organizations to generate evidence with children but we also in doing so, give those organizations a close chance to kind of work with children, hear their views and then that has effects for policy.

So I think we need to think quite cleverly about the ways in which we engage children in these conversations, but not just children, also the networks of support and guidance that sit around them.

I think clearly the pandemic has really highlighted the need for good governance.  And I think the speed chat we needed to respond has really shown us that quick decisions have been necessary and I guess one of the great casualties of the pandemic has been our capacity to consult with children.  It's been seriously compromised.  Not least because we find it difficult to convene with children face‑to‑face, which is a really wonderful way of hearing about their experiences and feeding that into policy and practice.

And so I think what we really need to do is stop and pause and think how do we do this meaningfully under the new conditions?  How do we engage with children in ways that make sense for these particular times?  But I have also begun to wonder, and this is really as a consequence of the pandemic b whether we are asking the right question about governance?  We talk, and I'm the first person to be a culprit of this, we talk about needing to balance participation and protection but in fact I'm beginning to wonder, we know that if you can secure a children's participation that supports their protection, and vice versa.  If you secure their protection, that supports their participation.

So we might think of these as mutually constitutive categories whereas when we talk about balancing them, we tend to think about them as somehow opposing forces.  So I think we need to really ask ourselves how we leverage participation and protection together because together they are more than the sum of their parts f that makes sense.

So, I think ‑‑ so I guess when I was thinking about what to talk about this evening, I do want to talk about the consultation that we just had done in partnership with 28 organizations around the world, some of whom are on this call.  We have spoken with 700 children in 28 countries in order to inform the drafting of the general comment on children's rights in the digital environment.

It's very clear.  Children are saying very, very strongly they want to be part of governance structures and they really want to be contributing to the decision‑making that impacts their lives.  And they are calling on states to make room for them to participate.

And I think it's vital we take this very, very seriously.

In terms of the issues that they are talking about, still the Number 1 issue for children around the world is the issue of access.  And there is clearly a role for strong governance to try to resolve the access challenges.  Children are unable to go on line when they want to.  They are often using second hand or old devices with short battery life.  And I think we have seen the pandemic, the enormous gap that causes and the great potential to exacerbate existing inequities.

But beyond access, children have also said to us very clearly in this latest consultation that they simply don't have enough access to content in a language that they speak.  Their language rights are really, really critical here and again, I think we have seen that in the pandemic and indeed it was referenced earlier.

And so there is a real need for governance to create the conditions in which more language content in the languages children speak, can be generated.

Children are also crying out for better access to quality information and in particular, the adolescence we spoke with highlighted the need for quality information, evidence‑based information, about sexual and reproductive health, sexuality, and about mental health.  So sensitive issues that are often taboo in cultures and not easy for children to talk about.  They really are calling out for that information to be made available on line.

And I think the pandemic has shown us some really interesting effects here.  Indeed, I think we can point to some fairly good quality information about the health effects of the pandemic that has been targeted to children and I applauded the New Zealand's Prime Minister's efforts to deliver a press conference for children in which she engaged in epidemiology in a young science communicator to answer children's questions.

I think the thing that we failed to do is to provide children really with the information they need to navigate the very social disruption to their everyday lives, the impacts of violence in their families, the loss of income, the very real mental health effects that it was being talked about earlier.

So I think we need to think information more holistically than we conventionally do and there is a role for governance there.

Children in this consultation were very strident their views on privacy.  They are calling out for privacy to be addressed.  Previously when we had spoken to them, they speak most readily about interpersonal privacy.  This time around, they still talked about interpersonal privacy but I they were much more attuned to the issues of data collection, data storage, data use, and the possibilities of economic exploitation.

They are calling out for more information and they are also calling out for governments to regulate those practices much more tightly and indeed, they say quite willingly that they trust governments a lot more than they trust private enterprise.  Which you perhaps could say is a healthy attitude to be breeding in our children.

There is a lot more to say on those things but I need to wrap up.  So, I think in terms of good ways to engage children in governance, I think the consultation we have just run, the International collaboration that made that possible really speaks to the strength of our capabilities when we come together as International communities.  And I think there is a lot possible.

If we decide that we are going to enable children to participate in decision‑making processes, we can certainly make it happen.

But I do think that if there is one thing I could wave the magic wand about, about this current consultation for the general comment, it would be that I'd like these consultations not to continue to be one of consultations.  I'd love us to see or to make spaces inside our governance processes to engage children meaningfully in an ongoing way.  And whether that means we run parallel processes, and then come together at certain points; or some other configuration, I do think that it is time for us to take that question of children's participation, a question that is fundamental to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but which is notoriously difficult to deliver on.  It's time to take that very seriously.  That would be my big wish.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you very much, Amanda for your insightful participation.  Now I would like to ask Professor Patricio Cabello from the University of Chile to join us in this conversation.  She is a very close partner in Latin America in integrating the kids online, Latin‑American Kids Online Network, and to promoting research in the region.  I would like to ask you if you could comment on the Latin‑American surveys and how we can frame the future of the policy debates and taking the perspective of our region.  So Patricio you have the floor.

>> PATRICIO CABELLO: Thank you.  Should I show my presentation?  Or not?

>> FABIO SENNE: You can do it if you want to.

>> PATRICIO CABELLO: No, I had this presentation but I will share it only a part of it because you have already said some of the things that I was planning to say.  But I want to stress just one thing that it has been said before here about the digital divides is almost like a classic about this subject.  And but I wanted to stress the importance of the remaining material divide, which is showing the inequalities in this pandemic period that are happening in children's lives, especially in I would say in two different fields, one of them which is one of my main concerns in the last years is education and the second could be health, maybe.  Not only talking about the prevention of the pandemic but also mental health and well‑being.  I will refer to just a little bit about them ‑‑ I'm sorry this is in Spanish this one.  This is what we have done with the Latin‑American network.  We have between 50‑63% of children that are going online from 9‑17, children and adolescents from their homes and through cell phone.

So this is ‑‑ when we are calling now this under class, this under connected students or under connected children, which are also in this pandemic, times working with under connected teachers also.  And this is meaning like a second‑class digital experience for them, which is going to have a huge impact and we don't know yet even how this is going to impact in the future of their education.

Some children, for example, are in their first two years of school and some of them are going through these two years without learning to read.  And this is going to be very, very hard for us here in Latin America.  What we are going to do with these children in the next few years.

In my opinion, there is not yet a well‑structured initiative from the Public Policy makers to discuss about this.  And in the other side, which is also as important as the under connected, is that we have this kind of connected link.  Elite that is of connected teachers and connected students that are using multiple devices from multiple locations and they have absolutely bridged the first digital divide.  They are living in the digital world with no problems.  This is affecting everything we are talking about here.  Communication in this remote emergency communication we are talking about, which is like new and very interesting subject.

The research until now what to do with this emerging data in this case.  And I'm going to just mention this, appropriations from skills to practices and digital participation that under the same influence of lower participation for slower socioeconomic status and that is very important.  And also how much media access is having a huge impact on this.  How these underconnected children that are using only cell phone and connecting from home are having much less opportunities in this digital society.  This is about digital skills, for example, that you can have.  The details of this and the report I will show you and the reference at the end of the presentation.  But the thing is always, that this underconnected children are absolutely like disadvantaged children in this digital society.

It doesn't matter we have this access if other devices are showing very deeply and the role of patients, for example, as mediators, it is showing now like I think never before.  It's been so evident.  Schools cannot absorb now, for example, the inequalities of homes, of how people, or part of the structure of our society in Latin America are getting through this.  So I would say that the future effects would be very important subject to discuss and for research also.  What's going to happen from here to 5‑10 years with these children?  Especially those that are not having preschool education, many of them.

And I think there is something that I have like two or three minutes or something like that.  I think we will face this new phenomena or we will face the real phenomena that is happening with the inequalities of digital, but also we are watching how this is going to, for affecting us as a deeper change.

What is the point to go to school for example for some children?  Or what are they missing?  Or what will they achieve for example with more digital devices and more digital materials to work with children in schools?  And we haven't thought about that, at least in Latin America, and a very, very strong sense, yet.  The expectations of teachers, for example, I have conducted late months like I would say dozens of interviews with teachers and they are very frustrated about this.  This has been very, very difficult for them and very, very demanding and stressing.  And many of them are using all of the time they have in the day to teach, for example, this grandmother or mother or father to connect and get access to the material for the children.  Calling them by phone, et cetera.  So I would say a few things quickly.  I think we should keep thinking about first digital divide.  We have not overcome the first digital divide even in Developing Countries like Chile, but there are other countries that is more dramatic and more difficult even.

So this is why I'm calling the spiral of in equalities and relation of being outside of the digital world or under connected digital world and at the same time this is of course affecting on reproducing these inequalities.

I have two ideas or two main focuses for bridge this digital divide.  The first is family and the second is school.  And I would say the third one is community.  There is something that we have neglected a lot, I think.  And yet to come, we will know in the future, I think we need to assess that to start assessing what is happening with that.  And I don't have the answer to this question because as I said, many are just left behind in this process.  I have for example, interviews with teachers that said that more than half of their students are not attending at all.  They do not appear or do not use any digital media or anything to get access to school.  They are just out of school.  And this is very, very dramatic.  In Chile, for example, the country with less dropout of students in the whole region, now we have ‑‑ this is like something we should have overcome like 20 years ago.

And now we are facing that we have lots of children that are not attending to school and this is very risky and you know that not attending to school is the ‑‑ one of the most strong predictors of risks for children in any environment.  How policymakers should face this situation?  I don't have the answers to these questions but this is for discussion.  And so thank you very much and it's always a pleasure to meet you here and I hope this is interesting for you.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you very much, Patricio for your insightful contribution.  Now I'll give the floor finally but not least, to another specialist for UNICEF in Latin America and the regional office and of course UNICEF is a very important layer in this debate.  Now I would ask Maria Alejandra Trossero also want to provide examples or practical things that UNICEF do that connect this whole debate on balancing rights.  So how to provision, protection and participation can be really implemented when dealing with this type of policy.  So you have the floor, please, for 10 minutes.

>> MARIA ALEJANDRA TROSSERO:  Thank you very much.  Before I dive into your question, I would like to contextualize about what Patricio was saying because when I was thinking about this session, I was thinking what is some of the things that are facing Latin America?  And the noticed the COVID epidemic has impacts our lives in a way we were not expecting, ever.  And I wanted to draw the attention to the crisis we are facing.  I wanted to give you some figures.  137 million children are missing out on their education.  So 1/3 of all Latin‑American and Caribbean countries do not have yet a date for starting school.

So the schools continue to remain closed in most of Latin America.  We are having a huge issue in our region.

And children in the region have lost four times more schooling than the rest of the world.  So really we are facing a phenomenal cries and we shouldn't underestimate what is happening in our region particularly when taking the point of Patricio, in terms of inequalities, because most kids are missing out because there is no structures in place for them to be digital learning and also because there is no way that ministers of health or ministers of ‑‑ sorry, are able to respond to the huge demand.  They were completely and entirely unprepared.

So, moving now into your question and taking this educational situation and educational ‑‑ into account.  I think one of the issues we are facing in the Latin America in terms of regulation is for example, that we don't have safety policies in place in the education system.

Very few countries are moving into ensuring, for example, policies ensuring that there is good procedures in terms of on line one‑to‑one interactions between the students and teachers, how we show that there is a safe learning environment for children.  And this is an area that we need to look into more detail on exactly how the regulations in the schools are taking place, how we ensure those safety for teachers and students and ensure that they are safe and in a transparent way and are related.

We are also facing an issue in terms of digital divide that Patricio mentioned.  The technological companies should work much more with government to help in the regulation, to improve access to the digital connectivity whether it's divides Internet connection, I think there are a conversation that is happening and I want to mention that from UNICEF, we are making a huge push to increase access to devices and increase access to Internet.  We are currently mapping in a number of countries, mapping access to Internet in schools.  Unfortunately, most of this work is going to be interrupted because we are coming to a second ‑‑ in the countries where we were doing these mapping like El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica.  They are also facing between today and tomorrow a huge second wave.  So most of this work will be also interrupted.

So I think some of the challenges that we have in our region is to move forward and in time, adjust it to go back because the pandemic has moved us behind but also in Central America in particular, the current crisis is moving us even much backwards.  So this is a concern that we are having.

So going back to the companies that think access to digital divides is Internet and ensuring that the on line results are able make for free at low cost for people who need it the most.  And I would say for free in their region.  Content is an issue and we have to ensure that these ‑ the companies that are working in that region get committed to make sure that these resources are available for free.

And how we train providers, whether they are teachers, health providers, social workers, how we train them to ensure that they have the skills to support children to navigate safely Internet, but also how they work with parents and teachers for that to happen.  We do have reporting mechanisms.  They are very vague.  They are general.  They are national level.  How we move them some of these report mechanisms to local level.  How we ensure the kids are understand where the mechanisms for reporting on‑line safety issues in a way that is linked to them, meaning they don't need to go to a place that are completely unfamiliar to them, but much more local where they could report.

Something that we notice over the last few months is importance of the headlines and the help lines to support children.  And we see much more reporting taking place.  And I do think we need to look at it how the reports and mechanisms are happening and shaping within the digital environment.  So because it is happening in on line, but how that privacy date at reporting ‑‑ data privacy is happening and whether there is good regulations taking place.

I have the sense that in our region, we have a lot of work to do.  At the moment, we had also ‑‑ we are working with governments in terms of ensuring that the help lines and the policies ‑‑ the mechanisms are in place for reporting are safe but also ensuring they are in a better mechanism when reporting is taking place.

The second idea that we are working on much more is with the technology companies and making them more aware of the risk but also working with them in assuring that in the context of the pandemic, we are, for example, in Columbia, modeling a program where we are engaging children to understand and gain well skills to navigate on line safely.  We are working with teachers and parents to give them the skills for that.  We are working part of the platform of technology companies so we are working with a company to be more aware of the implications of some of the policies and working through them or with them on that.  And at the same time, advocating for the government to change some of the policies and ensure that children are dedicated policies in place within the telecommunication organization they have a unit dedicated to children's safety.

So this ‑‑ in a nutshell, some of the things that we are doing but some of the big challenges we are facing in our region and unfortunately, I feel that the amount or the challenge is increasing because of the big gaps that exist today, inequalities that are manifesting right now and ongoing crisis that we have in terms of education.  The World Bank released that we lost 1.2 billion as a result of the educational crisis.  Thank you.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you very much and thank you all for keeping on the time.  Now we have 30 minutes for discussion, which is very, very good because now I have time to interact with other participants and we have some questions here.  I would like to start by ‑‑ maybe clustering the two first questions that we are dealing with, the governance issue, which is the third question that we raised in this setting. 

So Carlos asks, what mechanisms do you suggest for children to participate in governance?  In a sense we can move the situation?  And another question, recovering the last IGF where young people strongly demanded to be involved in Internet Governance with the call being about us, not without us.  How can we engage that?

I would like to ask Sonia to start with that and we want to of course include children in the debate in IGF but also how can you really push the participation, including other platforms and governments in difficult situations where we need to implement mechanisms that works and that children have their voices heard?  So what are your pons this, Sonia, please?

>> SONIA LIVINGSTONE: So that's a huge question.  And there are many ways of answering it because there are many things to be done.  I mean, since now that the digital world is so important to everything, as people on this discussion are very eloquently saying, involving children in questions that are happening in the digital world is involving them in the world.  We have to ‑‑ just as we are trying to involve children orb we should be involving children, in participation in any area with any organization that has power, that makes a difference to their lives.

But I think questions around technology and someone has a question about speed, the pace of change, the complexity of change, and the kind of global nature of Internet Governance, those things may get particularly difficult.  We have to applaud the efforts of the IGF to include Youth IGF to try to make these very meetings open to ‑‑ or sometimes for children and young people to join in.

You know, this is a pretty kind of alienating experience for many.  So we need multiple mechanisms at multiple levels; but I do particularly ‑‑ Amanda will speak for herself in a minute but I think the model of working out how questions can be addressed in local organizations in the place where is children are, that they can be asked by the people who already are around children and young people and work with them.  That has to be powerful.  And then the question is getting their voices listened to.  And I think the problem is not so much have the children got things to say, because they have, but can we get people with the power in Internet Governance to really take note?

And that say challenge that the IGF just has to take up much more forcibly as do governments around the world when they make their decisions about Internet Governance.  They forget children are 1‑3 of the world's Internet users.  And the very purpose of figuring out that is to say that they are incredibly important and they are part of the world.  Surveys of people does not mean surveys of adults.  It's got to include everybody.

So, many things need to be done.  I would just say, as my last perhaps ‑‑ in some ways the digital world should be the easiest world because children and young people are ready to speak about this.  They have so much to say, they believe it is their domain and they are ready to use the digital tools to communicate with them.

Seems that results in rather kind of superficial polls in scatter shod or not representative ways of connecting little snippets of what children have to say, which is not fair to them and which doesn't get their voices really amplified.  So it has to be taken as a serious undertaking.  We can't carry on talking without 1‑3 of the population included.

>> FABIO SENNE: I would like to hear from Amanda about this.  Amanda, can you also comment on that?

>> AMANDA THIRD: Yes, I think as Sonia said, pretty much everything, I think the only other thing we could do troops leverage the digital and supportive children's participation is actually to extend access to all children everywhere as my colleagues have been highlighting.  This is a really key challenge and it's one that children consistently raise.  And it's just not receiving enough attention.  I think with the partition nation governance, ting depends on what we mean by governance.

Until a constrained definition of governance where we are talking about legislation and regulation, the actions of governments, but of course governance is a much more significant project than that.  And governance is about sort of interdependence and ongoing interaction between government and non‑government actors whereby we negotiate structures and processings and relations of decision making and accountability.  And so from that perspective, I think we need to begin to think governance as a kind of cultural project.  We need to nurture cultures of governance which are inclusive of children.  And that means that we have to sort of step back and we have to scrutinize our processes.  As someone said, many of the decision‑making forums we have in place currently are very alienating for children.  There is definitely scope to using the digital to engage children in those decision‑making processes.

Really, I think as organizations and institutions, we need to really put our own practices under the microscope and then work with children to design processes to enable them to feed into decision‑making.  I think it's likely the right processes will look very different from one place to the next.  And I think we need to remember that ‑‑ and again this is a point that was implicit in what Sonia was saying, if not explicit.

When we are talking about governance for the digital world, we are actually talking about children's right to participate in the world, per se.  And this is really ‑‑ not that radical.  But we have got to put our mind to it.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you.  You have a very good point and now I would like to give the floor to Guilherme Canela Godoi.  How to enforce something like – or to avoid this information or misinformation given that the concept is not clear or misused in the mix of conceptual interests.  So this is an issue of not just to ‑‑ who should deal with the governance process but also how to enforce issues that are not well defined and conceptualized.  So can you talk about this specific question?

>> GUILHERME CANELA GODOI: Sure.  Just one quick add to the previous discussion about involving children.  I think we have bad practice in the past for several reasons.  It was dealt by the Ministry of Children in a particular government -- or the Secretary of Children.  It was similar to the Internet and the area of the government was a very specific area.  And we feed to acknowledge that those issues should be treated from the beginning across the border.  Then we need discuss the governance issues very specific but the very specific cities of each area.  So for instance, we need to discuss the data protection or privacy regulator how to include the children's issues in their mandate.  We need to discuss with access to information and related information of Commissioners how children should be heard through information practices and consultations. 

We need to discuss with the e‑Government part how when they are designing e‑Government policies that children are being considered.  We need to discuss with the judiciary when children needs to be heard in their cases evolving them and they are using more and more digital procedures, how children is going to take into consideration.  This is the real governance story instead of putting children's whatever in an Internet Governance specific area of the government because then we will continue to make the same mistakes that we did in the past to make this nearby areas that doesn't take care of the ‑‑ doesn't accommodate the reality and all of those issues are across‑the‑border and maybe they were from the beginning.

Regarding the specific question of misinformation and disinformation, we need to acknowledge that this is a very complex phenomena that is not going to be tackled by a specific‑only answer it's not only regulation.  It's not only self‑regulation.  It's not only fact checking.  It's not only media and information literacy it's all of those things, and because it is gigantic with different sorts of causes and symptoms, et cetera.  But we need to acknowledge the structural elements of this phenomena.  We know and love although we don't know everything about it.  And what we already know shows that it's a combination of different areas.  Oone of them is fact checking and the other is media and information literacy.  But perhaps the bottom line here is that this kind of phenomena, this information and misinformation, hate so much, very often the best way of dealing with that and with more freedom of express and not with les.  It's to counter the speech problems with more speech.  So when governments are trying to do a legislation to tackle disinformation, to take down fake news, so‑called fake news or hate speech, everywhere often they are affecting the same groups that allegedly they were trying to protect.  Children, women, minorities, et cetera.  Because they are using this as Trojan horses to stop political debate, to stop political speech to, stop the discussions about those issues that we want to tackle.

So we need to be very careful in dealing with this because the architecture of the Internet is like card of ‑‑ castles of cards.  If you take one compared off the castle, the entire architecture can disrupt.  So the basic recommendation from UNESCO looked at that very carefully.  Let's combine different solutions and particularly, let's ask for more transparency in dealing with those issues so that we can take better and inform decisions when we are discussing this.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you very much.  Now I would like to give the floor to both Patricio and Alejandro, both teachers and a discussion on education.  We have a question on the limits of remote education, especially during the COVID outbreak.  So would you briefly comment on this area of your research with teachers and how to implement policies regarding this issue?

>> PATRICIO CABELLO: There are many, many different situations and data about this.  I'm very, very biased by what is happening here in Chile because my ‑‑ almost all my research is here.  So I don't want know if I can talk about Latin America.  But at the same time, what has happened in Chile is always like an example for many other policies in the region.

I have one data of one recent research ‑‑ and very simple, very, very simple, about training ‑‑ pre‑service teachers.  And we found out that analyzing the structure of their study plans which here are very structured, and we find that 35% of them didn't have any ICT, not even power point, or how to use word or something like that.  35% didn't have that and they also don't have anything that it is ‑‑ what they say they should learn at the end of this project, which is not even a module through all the plan.

So, what we have is teachers that do not have ‑‑ they are not having the tools that they need for this.  And this is going to be ‑‑ if you check this, it is worse if you do a long‑term research through the past 10 years.  So what we are doing now is trying to body what is happening with these teachers.

And of course, we are showing also the big and terrible inequalities even in learning for teachers.  The top‑ranked universities are teaching this for pre‑service teachers like 10 years ago they started to do this.  And the low quality universities here are teaching nothing about this.  So it's very difficult then to work with teachers on training or how to use digital tools for classes.

So we have a sister strong inequalities in our education system from the beginning, from what teachers are learning before they start.  So, that's one problem.

I would say that another problem, which is not usually addressed at least here, is how teachers should work with families in an alliance for this.  How to teach parents to teach children in this environment.  So this is going to be a huge ‑‑ I would say a huge ‑‑ something we should overcome in the next year to understand that how it's going to be included family is not only about how family have to give orientation about values to children.  That is of course important.  But also that parents as an active agent in teaching children in learning.

It is something that is showing very important.  We are looking and how ‑‑ children also from high SES, for example, from high socioeconomic status, they are absolutely abandoned in their houses to just learn whatever.  And parents that believe strongly about this thing about the digital ‑‑ because it is like the new religion for access, from their point of view, it's very difficult to know to work with that.  Because they believe, they know how to use this.  Or they will catch‑up with school and so on.  And this is showing the inner inequalities of also these classes.

Where you have this idea of the advantages of children which is supposed to be a genius so he can manage everything on their own alone.  And we have nothing to do with that.  So, and so it's I think we have to rethink what we are thinking about our educational system.  I think that is something that is very important for us.  And I think it has a huge impact on participation also in many other ways.  Because the first place for participation for children, the first institution that they have to be participating in are the schools.

So, now they are not only outside of learning environments, but they are also outside of the most primary and most ‑‑ maybe most stronger institution for participation for children.  So, I think we will be discussing this for years to come, I think.  And we will be ‑‑ we have choices to start working now.  I think one thing is pre‑service training for teachers, which is absolutely for us, that is absolutely urgent.

>> FABIO SENNE: Do you have some questions?

>> MARIA ALEJANDRA TROSSERO: To say something that happened very positive in Latin America is the Minister of Education had come together to share strategies for creating and for basically increasing ‑‑ decreasing digital divide.  Teaching teachers how to use the digital needs.  We have a long way to go and they are very positive experiences coming up in terms of collaboration of working governments together to try to solve some of these challenges.  And I just wanted to say in terms of participation and engaging young people and others, in particular, I think what we have seen in this region is because of the familiarity online, we see much more conversations taking place and participation happening in a much more spontaneous way.  And the climate change move is a good way to see how children and most adolescents are coming together to put pressure in the government.

So we see a new generation as well of children expressing their voices in ways that they are setting up the ways in which they want to engage.  And there is not mediated by others.  There are certain experiences we need to look in more detail to learn from them, to influence decisions in terms of bigger government in a way.  So thank you.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you very much.  I think you have time for final round of comments, very briefly.  Final comments.  And I would go for ‑‑ have you two questions on the future on how this very fast‑changing environment can be regulated so the frequency of regulating is fast‑changing ‑‑ and everybody mentioned COVID rises and how this is a problem for us.  So in one minute, if you could please bring us what you ‑‑ the resurgence and policy decisions in this moment.  So maybe doing the opposite ear ‑‑ I'll start with Alejandro.  If you can give us some ‑‑ one minute what do you think is the agenda should look for ‑‑ not just research agenda but also the policy decisions.

>> MARIA ALEJANDRA TROSSERO: I would say in terms of policy agenda, we do need to look into mechanisms at a different level and talking about in terms of and education participation and regulation that is take place with the Private Sector, how we engage the Private Sector much more and particularly from UNICEF how we ‑‑ it is something we are trying to do is to bring that conversation between Private Sector and government so bringing that much more closer.  So in terms of some of our priorities in the region, I would say issues around bringing ‑‑ or bridging ‑‑ reducing barriers and connecting the dots, connecting the Private Sector with government with education system and trying to have that conversation and promote participation because this is a core part of the work we do.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you.  Patricio?  What is your final ‑‑

>> PATRICIO CABELLO: I would say that because we are talking about policy making and what can we say.  I would say something that maybe too general but I would say in the case for example of our countries in Latin America, we need a stronger presence of the state.  Stronger presence of institutions.  And education, for example, and digital access for example is a very feel where we are ‑‑ Private Sector have done very good things and this is absolutely not enough.  It's not going to be self-regulated or I think we need strong institutions and strong presence of the state to ‑‑ of the states also as Alejandra said to work on this matter because it's not going to end next year when we have a vaccine.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you.  Amanda, what is your late‑night comment.

>> AMANDA THIRD: I have to say, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel, as they say.  Actually I want to pick up where Patricio just left off.  I think it's clear that we are going to need some significant changes for an extended period of time and that means several things.  It means in the ways in terms of the way we orient to the future, it means we need better processings for hearing one another.  I mean, we returned to this question of children's participation a lot and I think the thing that I haven't said that I want to say about that is, children have plenty to say.  They speak all the time it's adults that don't have the capacity to listen.  Our institutions need to grow larger ears.

So, I think that is very important.  But I think in terms of the ways that we orient ourselves to the future, we need to really start listening a lot more.  And we needed to have the long‑term gain in mind.  I think all of us in the aftermath of the pandemic sought the quick fix, the checklist of things that we can all do to make children safe and enhance their participation, but actually, no, it doesn't work like that.

It's a long road ahead and the most urgent thing that we can do is start thinking about the long term and acting on the long term now.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you.  And gill herm?  What are your final words?

>> GUILHERME CANELA GODOI: The pains of technology.  I think one of our mistakes related to this is precisely to focus too much in the specific technology, in the specific area, in this specific platform.  While the principles are the same.  So, in terms of policy, I think that we have still a long road to walk, for instance regarding protecting specific rights of the children that are important for this discussion such as freedom of expression and privacy.  I guess the next 20 years will be a lot of discussion on how we protect more and we enhance children's rights to freedom of expression to access information to privacy.  But I'm not saying anything new.  This was already in the ARTICLE 19 of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights where the mothers and founders of the declaration didn't mention any specific technology.  They said those rights were available by ‑‑ beyond frontier and technology.

This is in terms of policy.  Obviously it will be keeping important to discuss risk and harms and opportunities such as no hate speech, information, et cetera, but we will need to have more research on the structural problems; on how they operate in this impacts all of this.  Artificial intelligence, the way the platforms are organized.  I think we are just scratching the surface if we keep concentrating all the efforts in situations, in discussions like hate speech, et cetera.  They are important but the structural problems should be more investigated and I think this will be the new frontier in terms of research and how it is related to the children's particular challenges.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you.  Now Sonia, you have the floor.

>> SONIA LIVINGSTONE: Oh, it's quite a practical thought because I think what we haven't discussed so far is the fact that in other parts of the Internet Governance Forum, governments and companies are all figuring out how they can get ahead in the most competitive way in order to maximize profit, to put it bluntly.  I think the vaccine is an interesting example.  We are facing the same race for a successful vaccine all around the world and some companies will make a lot of money.  And as a public we all learned that whomever thinks they got a vaccine, before it can get to the public, it has to be properly tested by properly, independent, authoritative bodies which set standards that are Internationally recognized and nothing is going to reach the public until that process has been checked.  And that is what we should be doing with digital technology.

>> FABIO SENNE: Thank you all for your participations.  It's a pleasure to moderate this session.  I think we have lots to discuss and to keep researching and thank you very much.  And we are welcome also to share another ‑‑ all the strategies you have in those networks and reporting to IGF.  So thank you very much.  Be safe wherever you are and thank you for your participation.

 

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