Children advise Lords on Digital Rights

Young people's policies for a happier internet, not only a safe one. By Denis Lundie

In a first opportunity to influence the debates which determine their rights in the ‘digital world’, children and young people got to express their opinions through a report introduced to the House of Lords on 31 January. Entitled ‘The Internet On Our Own Terms’ was introduced by Baroness Beeban Kidron, founder of the 5Rights organisation. Led by the universities of Leeds and Nottingham, research took the form of series of debates in different parts of the UK, where the ‘Internet’ was ‘put on trial’ by young people. It provides a fascinating, personal and comprehensive account of our young people’s insights and expectations.

The report acknowledges that children and young people have been left out of policy-making and reports that they consider adult debate about the internet limiting because it is dominated by a discourse of fear and by ‘adult experts’. While they recognise the need for informed adult debate, young people expect to be included in shaping a positive online world to live in. Their detailed recommendations cover all areas of online society, from the use of personal data to a need for education beyond the provision of e-safety.

Young people highlighted three consistent themes, which deserve attention:

  1. Overcoming the online/offline split in rights and policy: Young people expect online experiences to be consistent and governed by the same moral standards as the offline world and therefore, to have the same rights and responsibilities online as they have offline.
  2. The role of regulation: Along with self-responsibility, young people want regulation to introduce reasonable norms to ensure young people’s experiences online are not only safer, but happier.
  3. Participation raises young people’s efficacy. Participants in the research debates left feeling more determined to have a say about how digital technologies and services are run and more confident about expressing their rights.

Parents and educators can help by becoming familiar with the 5 rights and the greater social questions including equality of access to internet resources and rights over our own data, passionately promoted by organisations like the open data institute and web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Participating in informed discussion with young people can help to guide regulators, technology developers, corporations and citizens.

Sources

  1. The 5 rights: Children’s Rights extended to the digital world.
  2. Read or Download the ‘Internet on our Own Terms’ study.
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