On 20 November 2014, the House of Lords is scheduled to debate the following motion:
“that this House takes note of the impact of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on children’s and young people’s online and digital interactions”
Information presented in this Note has been compiled to provide background reading for Members ahead of the debate.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was brought into force in the UK in 1992. The Convention sets out a number of rights regarding children and their wellbeing, and forms the basis for much of the work of UNICEF. In light of the growth of the internet and digital technologies over the past couple of decades, UNICEF has recently published a number of reports discussing how these mediums could impact upon children’s rights or safety. This was also considered by the UK Government in its review of its performance in relation to the Convention. Ofcom has reported that, in 2013, 37 percent of those aged 5 to 7 used the internet every day, compared to 62 percent of 8 to 11 year olds and 81 percent of 12 to 15 year olds.
Three of the key risks that have been identified by the UK Government, and by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in relation to children’s online activity are: sexual exploitation; cyberbullying and social network misuse; and access to inappropriate content. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre estimated that there were around 50,000 individuals involved in the downloading or sharing of indecent images of children during 2012; Childline reported that they had received 4,500 reports of a child being bullied online in 2012/13; and Authority for Television On Demand estimated that 473,000 6 to 17 year-olds accessed an adult website in December 2013.
This Note considers these subjects in turn, including measures currently in place to protect children’s online safety and recommendations for further action. The Note also highlights a number of statistics regarding children’s online activity and experiences, and provides some links to further reading.