Children and young people have long-established rights and protections offline and a life mediated by tech must be held to the same standards. Our digital world is a purpose-built environment, shaped through conscious choices. We must choose to build a digital world that supports and empowers young people and upholds their rights. The Digital Services Act represents a singular opportunity to ensure that children’s rights are respected, embedded and upheld online.
Technology (or its absence) is now a defining feature of childhood. Yet children – who make up one in five users of digital services in the EU – live in a digital world designed by adults, for adults, and driven by commercial interests.
The problems children face from the digital world are systemic. They are not restricted to technical bugs or bad actors but are also present in the features and architecture of the products and services on which children rely for access to education, health, entertainment, civic engagement and to manage their relationships with family and friends. Children are routinely presented with information, behaviours and pressures that they do not have the developmental capacity to negotiate. They are introduced to unknown adults, nudged to make in-game purchases, targeted by dangerous or harmful content, bombarded with targeted advertising and misinformation, and subjected to invasive, extractive data gathering.
We need a better deal for children online, and in order to achieve this, children need to be recognised in the digital environment. The protections, privileges and rights which empower and support young people offline need to be upheld online.
5Rights Foundation, supported by the broader children’s rights, human rights, digital rights and consumer protection communities, calls upon the European Parliament and Council of Ministers to include a children’s clause in the Digital Services Act requiring all providers of services likely to be accessed by or impact on children to uphold their rights, undertake child impact assessments and mitigate systemic risks to children’s rights, based on statutory standards.
Now is the time to build the digital world that young people deserve.
“The EU is leading the way in digital regulation and what it does will impact on users globally. For this reason it is imperative that the DSA makes sure that children, children’s rights and childhood itself are specifically mentioned and categorically protected in this ground breaking legislation. How the digital world is designed will impact on this generation and generations to come”
Baroness Kidron, 5Rights Chair
“Online games and other digital products are gambling with children’s data and rights. That is why we call upon the European Parliament and Council of Ministers to include a children’s clause in the Digital Services Act requiring all providers of services likely to be accessed by or impact on children to uphold their rights, undertake child impact assessments and mitigate systemic risks to children’s rights, based on statutory standards”.
Pernille Tranberg, DataEthics.eu
“Eurochild Secretariat supports 5Rights Foundation’s call for a children’s clause in the Digital Services Act. All providers of digital services have a responsibility to uphold and protect the rights of children. By applying child impact assessments, services can work to ensure all practices, policies and standards comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the realisation of the rights of the child.”
Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General Eurochild
“There is an urgent need for additional and specific protection for children on the Internet. Often times, children are exposed to harmful content and malicious actors – which in some cases, resulted in tragic outcomes. Children are particularly vulnerable and are easier to be influenced by commercial interests. We must urge policy-makers in the EU to act upon the rights of children and to protect them from profiling and targeted advertising.”
Cor Wijtvliet, SOMI Foundation
“The inherent drive for progress and innovation in the ICT industry is incredible, but can be harmful to children as many developments are produced with insufficient thought being given to their potential for abuse. The impact of experiencing abuse on a child is lifelong, so we have every reason to prevent it. That is why Missing Children Europe supports 5Rights’ call for a children’s clause in the Digital Services Act requiring all providers of services likely to be accessed by or impact on children to undertake child impact assessments to mitigate risks and uphold children’s rights.”
Aagje Ieven, Secretary General, Missing Children Europe
“The digital environment is currently not a healthy one, especially for young people. We commonly see manipulative design practices that exploit the vulnerabilities of children, causing them to spend more time and money, and give up more information, and ultimately their autonomy. The EU has an opportunity to rewrite the rules with the Digital Services Act, and it should seize that opportunity and require that companies take a serious look at how their product design is affecting young people through child risk and impact assessments.”
Jim Steyer – CEO, Common Sense Media
“Telefono Azzurro supports 5Rights’ call for a children’s clause in the Digital Services Act. Today, children spend more and more time online. The digital environment can offer new opportunities for children, but also news risks, including the risk of being exploited and abused. Providers of digital services are in a unique position to limit such risks and this legislation can be an important step to ensure that children’s rights are upheld in the digital world.”
Professor Ernesto Caffo – President Telefono Azzurro
“The online space has become an unsafe environment for girls across Europe, where they experience the increasing risk of various forms of online or digitally facilitated violence such as image-based sexual abuse, cyber harassment and sexual exploitation. Already in Europe more than 51% of young women are hesitant to engage online due the harassment they know they will face, therefore the EWL supports 5Rights Foundation in their call for a children’s clause in the DSA. All girls have the right to have their psychological health protected and be free from violence online and offline: the DSA must align not only with existing international human rights frameworks but with a new horizontal EU Directive to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women and girls.”
Claire Fourcans – Policy and Campaigns Director, European Women’s Lobby
“ECPAT International through Protect Beacon has been closely engaged with recent developments in the EU that will have an impact on children’s rights, and in particular on the EU response to online child sexual exploitation and abuse. The Digital Services Act is a key piece of legislation that will ensure more assertive action by the EU to uphold children’s rights and ensure they are protected from harm, including in digital environments. ECPAT International strongly supports this CSO call for a ‘children’s clause’ of amendments to the Digital Services Act. These will help ensure that children’s rights are not assumed or implied, but are clearly addressed in legislation, policy and practice in the EU.”
Dorothea Czarnecki – Deputy Executive Director, ECPAT International
An informed citizen is a protected and empowered citizen. Especially, when coming to children, their recognition and central-place in the digital environment is key to ensure a safe and responsible-structured society of online information and products. From iCmedia, we join the efforts of the 5rights foundation and call on the European Parliament and Council of Ministers to include a children’s clause in the Digital Services Act taking the UNCRC General comment No. 25 on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment as a plausible example for it.
Cristina González-Posada Martínez-Franco, Director General at iCmedia
You can download this statement here.
 Children have specific rights codified in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and reflected in EU and national law. How their rights should be interpreted in the digital environment is set out in UNCRC General comment No. 25.