Nordic countries can lead the way in upholding children’s rights in the digital world

The Nordic countries play a leading role in implementing children’s rights as well as in thinking about digital regulation; they can pioneer strong, coherent and balanced approaches to build a better digital environment for children. That was the message 5Rights Chair Baroness Beeban Kidron delivered in Oslo earlier this week on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Norwegian Consumers Council, an organisation whose ground-breaking 2018 report “Deceived By Design” was an early companion to 5Rights’ call for data protection for children by design and default. 

5Rights has been working with partners in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden to support regional cooperation on children’s rights in the digital environment. Civil society organisations across the Nordic region have collaborated to define common principles and priorities for the implementation of international and EU law, drawing on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child General comment No. 25 and international best practices for children’s privacy and safety, notably as elaborated in the Age Appropriate Design Code.

The Oslo trip, where Baroness Kidron and 5Rights Director Leanda Barrington-Leach met among others with civil society colleagues, experts and politicians, built upon a 2022 visit programme to Copenhagen. In early 2023 activities are planned in Stockholm around Safer Internet Day.

“Norway is a leader in this field, a leader in its thinking and a leader in its actions,” Baroness Kidron said after meetings with the consumer council, parliamentarians and the Data Protection Authority – which just announced a request for an EU-wide ban on the tracking and profiling of users by Facebook and Instagram, following a national ban in July. “Norway is making history and others will follow.” 

In 2020 Sweden passed a landmark law to incorporate the UN Convention of the Child directly into national law; in 1979 Sweden was the first country in the world to prohibit all forms of violence against children. Denmark is reviewing its laws on consent and age assurance following the recommendations of an expert commission on children in the digital environment. Finland has pioneered work on AI and children, in partnership with UNICEF.

Civil society organisations across the region are pressing for more, including cooperation on coherent approaches to implementing GDPR and the Digital Services Act for children. A shared Nordic Manifesto commits signatories to promote the prioritisation of children’s rights in the implementation of European and domestic law for regulating the digital environment, with the aim to ensure that children can thrive in online spaces that are safe, designed and operated with their best interests in mind. We will work together to develop, enforce and promote a coherent, proportionate and effective regulatory framework for digital service providers and operators.” 

Read the Nordic Manifesto.

Read more of the reports from the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet):