Young and online: children’s perspectives on life in the digital age

The State of the World’s Children 2017 Companion Report
Children Digital communications Children's rights Digital divide Cyber safety
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In June 2017, 490 children aged 10–18, from 26 different countries1 and speaking 24 official languages, participated in workshops held by UNICEF Country Offices and National Committees to share their views on how and why they use digital technologies in their everyday lives, as well as their aspirations for the future of our digitally mediated world.

Undertaken with the aim of generating data with children for publication in the SOWC 17 report, this project was a joint effort of the team in the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, UNICEF New York and a network of 26 UNICEF Country Offices and National Committees. It built on a previous international study that channelled children’s insights into global efforts to reinterpret the Convention on the Rights of the Child for the digital age (Third et al. 2014).

Summaries of the findings of this project have been included in the SOWC 17 report. This Companion Report, which should be read alongside the main report, explores in further detail the rich contributions of children for understanding the opportunities and challenges digital technologies present in their everyday lives.

Children’s digital technology access and use is a subject of burgeoning interest and sometimes intense concern, as well as an area for necessary action if the global community is to work collectively to ensure digital technology can be harnessed to deliver on children’s provision, protection and participation rights, now and into the future.

The digital age brings both new opportunities and challenges for children, and digital media can operate to both enhance and infringe their rights.

The risks to children online are real, and they are particularly acute in the global South, where children are rapidly coming online, particularly via mobile platforms. And in many places, policy, legislative and regulatory instruments struggle to keep pace with rapid technological change.

At the same time, too tight a focus on the potential harms can undermine the abilities of children and the organisations that work with and for them to seize the opportunities and benefits of the digital age for realising their rights.

And there is still a paucity of reliable data about children’s digital practices that can support effective policy, education and programs, particularly in the global South.

Workshops were conducted by 23 UNICEF Country Offices and National Committees (Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brazil, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Timor-Leste, Fiji, Guatemala, Jordan, Kiribati, Malaysia, Republic of Republic of Moldova, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, and Vanuatu) and three National Committees (Japan, Republic of Korea and Portugal).

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