The Digital Services Act must deliver for children

Children and young people have long-established rights and protections offline[1] 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

You can download this statement here. 

[1] 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.