SRSG welcomes Council of Europe’s new guidelines on the rights of the child in the digital environment

11 July 2018 - New York: SRSG Santos Pais welcomes the adoption by the Committee of Minister of the Council of Europe of new Guidelines to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the child in the digital environment.

The Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021), which was developed in close cooperation with the Special Representative, identifies the rights of the child in the digital environment as a key priority. The Guidelines will assist States and other stakeholders in the implementation of children’s rights enshrined in international and European human rights instruments and standards relevant to children and the digital environment.

“I welcome the adoption of these important Guidelines and commend the Council of Europe for its commitment to this topic. The protection of children from violence mediated by information and communications technologies (ICTs) is a long-standing priority for my mandate. I am confident the Guidelines will be a strategic reference to raise awareness and mobilise action, to inform and empower children, and to prevent risks they may encounter in cyberspace, both within and beyond the European region,” said SRSG Santos Pais.

This Recommendation by the Committee of Ministers represents the first time that an intergovernmental body has adopted a wide-ranging set of standards on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in the digital environment.

“My mandate has long promoted the adoption by States of a safe, inclusive and empowering digital agenda for children, supported by all relevant stakeholders and underpinned by the ethical and meaningful participation of children. This approach resonates strongly with the provisions of the Guidelines, and I look forward to continuing to collaborate closely with the Council of Europe in promoting their dissemination and implementation,” said SRSG Santos Pais.

The Guidelines address the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence, as well as children’s access to the digital environment; freedom of expression and information; freedom of assembly and association; child participation; the right to play; education and digital literacy; and privacy and data protection.

An issue of special relevance to the work of the Special Representative is the protection of children from cyberbullying, a topic which will be addressed by the forthcoming report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the protection of children from bullying. Cyberbullying, stalking and other forms of harassment are explicitly identified by the Council of Europe Guidelines as risks to children’s healthy development and wellbeing.

The Guidelines encourage States to take effective measures to prevent and address such manifestations of violence, including through the promotion of digital literacy; enhancing the capacity of parents, carers and educators; and ensuring that legislation in this domain pursues, as far as possible, restorative approaches to peer-to-peer online violence, while preventing the criminalization of children. These are concerns addressed by previous SRSG thematic reports, including ‘Ending the torment: tackling bullying from schoolyard to cyberspace’ and ‘Releasing Children's Potential and Minimizing Risks - ICTs, the Internet and Violence against Children