On 12 February 2020, the Norwegian Ombudsperson for Children held a high-level meeting on children’s rights in the digital environment with 120 participants, including ministers and secretaries of state from five ministries, the president of Parliament, a member of the executive council of the Sámi Parliament, representatives from the political parties, directors of eight governmental agencies, several NGOs and businesses. In addition, key researchers working on children’s rights in the digital environment attended.
The Ombudsperson’s young advisors, who took part in the 2019 ENYA project, also attended and presented their report “Young people thoughts on the digital environment”. The ENOC Statement and recommendations on children’s rights in the digital environment were also presented to the participants.
The work related to children in the digital environment in Norway is currently fragmented and divided between six ministries. Today, there are more than 20 different governmental agencies, 50 NGOs, 50 helplines/chats for children, not to mention the industry, that are working on different issues concerning children and the digital environment. There is a lot of work being done, but this work is undermined by overlaps and “blind spots”, as a result of a lack of comprehensive strategy/common framework or coordination. In this context, this meeting was an initiative of the Ombudsperson to contribute to a long-term and coordinated work for a safer digital environment, and to the establishment of a holistic strategy on children and the digital environment led by one ministry. The initiative is built on a rights-based approach to children’s digital environment, and the importance of basing the work on the UNCRC was emphasized.
35 of the participants signed a joint statement at the meeting. Every organisation committed to implement two measures of their own choice during the next year. The Ombudsman for Children will follow up the work being done by the different stakeholders. There will be a new high-level meeting in February 2021 where stakeholders will report on what they have done to fulfil these measures.
The joint statement is as follows:
“We recognize our common responsibility to fulfil, protect and respect children’s rights in the digital environment in accordance with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. We will work together to ensure that children can explore the positive aspects, and at the same time be protected against the risks. Children shall participate in this work.
The use of digital media can lead to children being exposed to situations of risk which can have great potential of harm. We will use knowledge-based measures to promote positive use, and to prevent and handle the risks. The digital skills of children, parents and professionals working with children must be improved, and children must be provided with good help when they experience something negative in the digital environment.
We stand behind this statement to strengthen the coordinated effort to promote a safer digital environment for children.”