2020 in review

As we come to the end of 2020 it’s a good time to reflect on a challenging year, but one which has also nevertheless seen massive developments within the world of digital rights for children and young people. It’s also an opportunity to thank you all for your support and energy, which has helped make our work possible. 

This year saw the introduction of the Children’s Code into law. This is a milestone for 5Rights (we have battled for several years to see the Code introduced) and more importantly for children. This has been hailed as the first statutory ‘safety by design’ system in the world and many of its attributes are being adopted into other legislation and policy proposals, both in the UK and abroad. Ultimately its success will be in the hands of tech companies and regulators, but we are already seeing that (deep in the tech companies’ product teams) significant systemic changes are being made that will benefit children.  

As the year comes to a close we are still digesting the Government response to Online Harms. It is clear that there is a lot of work ahead, but we’re in a good position, and the Government has already accepted our arguments that children (everyone under the age of 18) deserve extra protection and that services must assess the risks to children in advance, before harm has happened. Our publication of Risky-by-Design, part of our effort to shift the narrative around online harms, has been a light-bulb moment for many in our specialist audience of government officials, tech companies and regulators, and is set to inform regulations and standards at home and abroad. We will expand this work significantly next year.  

The launch of the Digital Futures Commission was one of many inspiring occasions from the year, with over 400 attendees, a wonderful debate, and an introduction of our Commissioners by five young people that had our inboxes overflowing with joyful comments. More importantly still, the DFC work has brought us new partners and a place to work out ‘what good looks like’ when you put children at the heart of design. The next stage is a consultation on play, and we encourage you to share this with anyone you think might be able to help us.   

We haven’t the space to highlight all of the work that’s been done over the past year. We’ve not mentioned our work on the IEEE published terms standard, the UNCRC General Comment, the Internet Governance Forum, our engagement with multiple UN agencies, our work with local schools or our many, many consultation responses. We even published our first book. Freedom, Security and Privacy: The Future of Childhood in the Digital World has been incredibly well received, even from those we’re fighting for improvements in government and tech.  

None of this would be possible without our team of tireless and dedicated staff, which has grown significantly, while we’ve also had to say goodbye to one or two. It would also not have been possible without our supporters. It is an extraordinary privilege to be an organisation that has supporters who back our vision, who trust our process, and who make their own expertise and opinion available to us throughout the year. We are proud of what we do, but we could not do it without your support.  

Our very great thanks, and best wishes for what we hope will turn out to be a good year ahead. We look forward to it being our first year at full strength as we seek to build the digital world that children deserve.