"How can we give children and young people voice in the debate that explores the impact of digital access and use and their rights?"

This was the core question guiding a research project involving 17 organisations in 16 countries that resulted in a multi-media package sharing the perspectives of 148 children (aged 6 to 18 years, speaking 8 different languages). The project aimed to document and analyse the ways that children themselves conceptualise and enact their rights in relation to their digital media practices. In particular, the project asked children to reflect upon the extent to which they use digital media in their everyday lives and the motivations for their use; what their rights are in a digital age; how their rights might be enhanced by their engagements with digital media; and what kinds of challenges digital media pose to their capacity to claim their rights. Partners in the project included the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with the Digitally Connected Network.

Communication Strategies: 

The project drew upon participatory research and design methodologies that emerged from a methodology design workshop with two Sydney, Australia-based members of the Young and Well CRC's Youth Brains Trust. Then, partner organisations were recruited through a call for Expressions of Interest (in English, French, and Spanish) sent out via the website, email distribution networks, and social media channels of the Digitally Connected Network and the Young and Well CRC. Drawing on the methodology design workshop, the research team produced a project resource kit for partner organisations; it provided ethical standards relating to the recruitment for and conduct of the workshops with children. Available in English, French, and Spanish, it also contained detailed explanations of the suggested workshop activities and details on how to submit content back to the research team.

 

In July and August 2014, having been recruited by the participating organisations, the children took part in workshops (held in Arabic, English, French, Italian, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, and Turkish) to discuss the opportunities and risks associated with digital media. During the workshops, the children - hailing from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, France, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, and the United States of America - were asked to reflect upon the extent to which they used digital media and information and communication technologies (ICTs) in their everyday lives. They:

  • drew their own daily, weekly, or monthly "technology use timeline" in which they outlined their digital media use and related rights. To make this activity as inclusive as possible, workshop facilitators were asked to use a broad definition of media and technology so that children would be encouraged to also map their mass media engagements (radio, television, newspapers, and so on). The children were then asked to identify the challenges and opportunities associated with their media and technology use and map these onto their timeline. In the final stage of the activity, participants were encouraged to identify how their technology practices intersected, or not, with their rights by cutting out the relevant rights from a template provided by the workshop facilitator and matching them with the challenges and opportunities identified on their timelines. Children were also invited to invent their own rights, where they felt the existing rights did not capture their experience, and stick them on their timelines.
  • responded on camera to a series of "vox pop" questions on the opportunities and challenges digital media present in enacting their rights. These vox pops could be filmed on a digital camera, flip-camera, or mobile phone. Where these technologies were not available, or where participants were reluctant to be filmed, children were asked to write short written responses to the questions (e.g., "What is the biggest challenge digital media pose to your ability, and the ability of those around you, to live well?")
  • chose and explored a dimension of their rights in the digital age using one of 6 mediums (video, audio, photographs, drawing/painting, flip book, or written response). One example of a guiding question: "How does digital media enable you to enact change in your life and/or your community?"

The workshop resulted in 3 project outputs:

  1. A short film that documents children's insights into and experiences of their rights in the digital age using footage crowdsourced from children via the project's partner organisations.
  2. A scholarly report analysing the content generated by children who participated in the project in relation to the existing scholarship on children's rights in the digital age. [See related summaries, below.]
  3. A set of "digital champion" stories showcasing how children, or organisations working with children, are using technology to enhance the rights of children in different locations around the world. (See these stories, beginning on page 52 of this document "Children's Rights in the Digital Age: A Download from Children Around the World [PDF]".

 

The research team then conducted a content analysis of the children's timelines to identify key themes, commonalities, and differences. In conducting these analyses, the research team was very mindful that the project's key aim was to keep children's views at the core of the reporting.

 

Findings were then presented at the Day of General Discussion, a meeting focusing on digital media and child rights that was convened by the Committee on the Rights of the Child on September 12 2014. To read about the results, see the Related Summaries section, below.

Development Issues: 

Children, Youth, Rights, Technology, Education.

Key Points: 

"States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child." - Article 12: Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 

From "Children's Rights in the Digital Age: A Download from Children Around the World [PDF]": "[T]he global community is a long way from acknowledging and realising the potential of digital media to support children's rights. For example, for children in many parts of the world, consistent and quality access remains a challenge. Equally, many other children cannot access online resources in a language they can speak, and where this is possible, children consistently report that they have limited access to age-appropriate and quality information and entertainment (Livingstone and O’Neill, 2014). Many have not been provided the opportunity to reflect upon what their rights are, and how they might be implicated in the rise of digital media."

Partner Text: 

Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and UNICEF, in partnership with the Digitally Connected Network.

Source: 

"Children's Rights in the Digital Age: A Download from Children Around the World [PDF]", by Amanda Third, Delphine Bellerose, Urszula Dawkins, Emma Keltie, and Kari Pihl, October 2014.