Safer Internet Day – a chance to reflect on the digital rights of the child
Today, 11 February, marks Safer Internet Day – a worldwide event that raises awareness about online safety and encourages everyone to play their part in making the internet a better place.
The day is celebrated in 150 countries, and co-ordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network with the support of the European Commission. In Australia, the eSafety Commissioner is responsible for managing and promoting Safer Internet Day.
The eSafety Commissioner will today officially launch the Early Years, Online Safety for Under 5s booklet in Canberra. Designed to support educators and parents to explore key online safety issues with children under five, the booklet has drawn some attention in the mainstream media for its suggestion that children are asked for their consent before their photograph is taken.
Key to any discussion about how children’s images are taken, shared and used needs to be a consideration of the Rights of the Child, and how these are applied to the digital context. While the implications of the digital age for children’s rights have yet to be fully worked out, all Convention rights apply to children regardless of their physical or virtual location.
Those who are familiar with the work of Miriam Giugni will know Rethinking Images of Inclusion which poses a range of questions to educators to support their thinking about which images educators choose to capture, share and use in their work, and how these images support the Rights of the Child. A series of reflective questions are asked throughout the book, which again may support, including:
- How might you talk about these images in a way that constructs children in a broader social and community context?
- How might you talk about these images in a way that constructs children as powerful?
In a briefing prepared by the Child Rights International Network (CRIN), authors noted that, for better or worse, society is rapidly reaching a point wherein the internet is “inseparable” from the personal development and social lives of the large majority of children worldwide.
While this brings multiple benefits, it also brings some concerns about exploitation, and forces those in positions of power to reevaluate policy and practice.
“Typically”, the authors said, “the policy agenda is set without consulting children or assessing the impact on them, and without regard to children’s legal rights.”
By using thoughtful digital literacy education, combined with the principles of informed consent, a rights-based approach can help children to access the internet safely, as well as protecting them, they added.
When considering the Rights of the Child in terms of digital access, the authors focused on five key areas, which may support early childhood education and care (ECEC) services when considering their position on how children consent to their images being used:
- The Right to privacy and the right to be forgotten
- The Right of access to information and the right to education
- The Right to be safeguarded from abuse
- The Right to freedom of expression, and;
- The Right to be heard.
A range of resources have been prepared to help educators to participate in Safer Internet Day, including newsletter articles to send to parents, graphics to post through social media channels and posters to display. There is also a series of conversation starter cards to guide discussions with children about being safe online. These may be downloaded here.