Children’s Rights in the Digital Environment

2019 Annual Theme


It is estimated that a third of internet users across the world are children and young people under the age of 18. As with the physical world, the online world offers many opportunities and challenges for children. Technology has fundamentally changed the lives of children and young people across the world. The digital environment has allowed children to communicate, to play, learn and to explore but it has posed risks and potential harms that must be addressed.

In 2019, ENOC decided to focus on children's rights in the digital environment. As independent children’s rights institutions, children’s ombudspersons and commissioners have a unique role to play in the protection and promotion of children’s rights “on” and “offline”. Despite the increasing attention towards digital media among those concerned with children’s rights, the global community is still far from realizing the potential of digital media to support children’s rights. States are not yet adequately equipped with the necessary frameworks and guidance to enable them to drive effective digital policy and practice that balances children’s protection from harm with nurturing the opportunities for children.

A special Working Group (WG), chaired by the Office of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children & Young People, led the work on the priority theme and supported the statement drafting process. The WG Chair office designed a special questionnaire on the theme and collected feedback from 26 ENOC members from across Europe whose contributions have been collated and analysed in a Results Report. An Evidence Paper, prepared with the support of Elizabeth Milovidov, independent expert advisor on digital safety, provided supplemental insights into the state of affairs in Europe regarding children’s rights in the evolving and innovative digital environment. An exchange of views between ENOC members, young people and recognized European and International experts in the digital sphere aiming at informing the preliminary terms of the ENOC statement on the same theme took place on the occasion of an ENOC working Seminar last June in Manchester, UK.

ENOC members gathered on the occasion of ENOC’s 23rd Annual Conference « Offline/Online: A Child’s World. Children’s Rights in the Digital Environment » and 23rd General Assembly meeting held on 25-27 September 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland/UK and adopted the final position statement on the annual theme. This statement provides an important opportunity to bring attention to the need to understand children’s rights in the context of our rapidly changing digital environment and to ensure that governments and others across voluntary and private sectors are taking all necessary steps to promote and safeguard children’s rights and to ensure their participation in this regard.

The European Network of Young Advisors (ENYA), a ENOC led child participation project gathering young advisors from 18 ENOC countries/regions, has worked in parallel on the same theme and has come up with a set of specific recommendations addressed to relevant authorities and fully reflected in ENOC’s 2019 position statement on children’s rights in the digital environment.