Post in our forum for parents, teens - You! - at

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

UN Child Rights Convention: How about online rights?!

This past week, "the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – the most universally ratified human rights treaty," the European Commission reports. It adds that "the Convention is the first international legally binding instrument establishing minimum standards for the protection and safeguarding of a full range of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of all children around the world." As for children's online rights, it says "significant progress has been made in the areas of cyber security and combating child pornography especially through the [EC's] Safer Internet programme" (see this).

At this month's Family Online Safety Institute conference in Washington, British Member of Parliament Derek Wyatt spoke about a petition he has drafted with a number of children's organizations which "calls on the United Nations to 'examine and assess whether the Convention on the Rights of the Child fully addresses the needs and expectations of children in the digital age'." The four types of online safety laid out in's "Online Safety 3.0" suggest a framework for online children's rights. They are the right to...

1. Physical Safety (freedom from physical harm)
2. Psychological Safety (freedom from online cruelty, harassment, and exposure to potentially disturbing material)
3. Reputational and Legal Safety (freedom from unwanted social, academic, professional, and legal consequences that could affect one for a lifetime) 

4. Identity, Property, and Community Safety (freedom from theft of identity and property and attacks against one's networks and online communities at local, national, and international levels).

What this Internet-safety taxonomy is really saying is that all the rights and freedoms the Convention calls for for children need to be transferred online. They must enjoy these rights in cyberspace as well as in the rest of their lives. According to Wyatt, "the Convention provides a framework of rights that children around the world should be entitled to, such as the right to life, identity and protection from exploitation." Only five words need to be tacked onto the end of that sentence, really: "online as well as offline." Or something to that effect.

Now maybe Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha Obama will together help speed up the US's ratification of this global treaty representing "a new vision of the child," as UNICEF puts it in its FAQ on the Convention. As we hope Internet-safety education will come to do (respect youth agency, recognize young people as stakeholders in their own wellbeing online, and teach children their rights and responsibilities as citizens online and offline), the Convention "focuses on the whole child. Previously seen as negotiable, the child's needs have become legally binding rights. No longer the passive recipient of benefits, the child has become the subject or holder of rights." [As Amnesty International points out, "the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely accepted human rights treaty – of all the United Nations member states, only the United States and the collapsed state of Somalia have not ratified it."]

Please feel free to weigh in (post in the ConnectSafely forum) and help spread the word!

[Thanks to Dave Miles at the London- and Washington-based Family Online Safety Institute for keeping me posted on work in the UK on children's rights online.]

Related links

  • "From users to citizens: How to make digital citizenship relevant"
  • "Afterthought: Social norming & digital citizenship"
  • "Europe's amazing Internet-safety work" and now that I'm just back from a Net-safety conference in Mexico City, top of mind is Mexico's fine work in this area through its Alianza por la Seguridad en Internet (Internet Safety Alliance), which just launched Mexico's Internet safety helpline. [Europe has 20 such helplines. The US doesn't have one yet, but I hope to see that change soon too, with the help of SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration of the US government; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the crisis centers it coordinates around the country; the RAINN Hotline; The Trevor Helpline; the CyberTipline; and other outstanding projects.]

    Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

  • Spain to have affordable broadband for all

    Spain's government announced this week that it would require the country's Internet service providers to offer affordable broadband for all at a speed of at least 1 Mbps by 2011, CNET reports. Are we seeing a trend in Europe? Maybe. Last month Finland's minister of communications said everyone in Finland will have at least 1 Mbps connection by next July 1. Both Spanish and Finnish officials say they hope the fairly slow speed is "a starting point. And they believe network operators will increase speeds over time." Why doesn't the US do this? Well, there are slight differences in population. Finland has about 5.3 million people, Spain about 46 million, and the US about 304 million.

    Labels: , , ,

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    'Overparenting backlash' & predator fears

    It's an interesting juxtoposition, Time magazine's article about a helicopter-parenting backlash and a study showing that nearly two-thirds of US parents are concerned about online predators (see Which is bigger? I suspect predator fears are a bigger phenomenon, unfortunately – despite research at the Crimes Against Children Research Center "finding no evidence online predators were stalking or abducting victims based on information posted on social networking sites (see USATODAY's coverage and mine). The Center's director, Dr. David Finkelhor, also told me in an email around that time that the number of predation incidents was too low to show up in two separate national studies of US youth – "at 1 in 500 or 1 in 1000 or below we can’t estimate" the risk level of predation, he added. Certainly even one case is too many, but concerns need to reflect the facts not the hype and misinformation parents have been subjected to since the advent of online social networking.

    But getting back to the study of parents' concerns and engagement, it was a national survey by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan, and key findings include:

  • 81% of parents say their kids 9-17 use the Net "on their own," yet...
  • 64% of parents are either "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about online predators (half very concerned).
  • 66% of 13-to-17-year-olds have their own social network profiles, and 19% of kids 9-12 do (even though MySpace and Facebook require users to be 13 to set up accounts).
  • Despite the fact that the 2008 Berkman Center task force report stated that online harassment and bullying are the most common risk youth face online, bullying was No. 5 on the list of parents' online-safety concerns in the Mott study, after predators, privacy, porn, and online games, respectively.
  • The Mott study also broke down parental concerns by gender of children and family ethnicity, finding that "black parents report greater concern for all areas of Internet safety than do white or Hispanic parents."
  • Internet safety ranked as the 5th biggest health problem for children in the Mott Hospital's "'National Poll on Children’s Health' annual list of the Top 10 biggest health problems for children" this year, "with 31% of adults rating Internet safety as a big problem," Mott reports.

    Labels: , , , ,

  • Monday, November 23, 2009

    Thankful for new media & what they're teaching us

    Here in the US, this is kind of, partially a week of reflection and thanksgiving, as many of us shop, cook, travel, cook some more, and feast and some of us try to keep it really simple. But for the reflection and thanksgiving part, treat yourself to this enriching example of participatory media, a video by Michael Wesch and his students (the main one on this page). Then treat yourself to Professor Wesch's whole playlist on the right-hand side of that page. These students of anthropology – of humanity, really – understand social media from the inside out, so this is efficient, fun, joyful, profound, unsettling, mixed-media learning for us people who grew up in the profoundly different mass-media era.

    In 12 years of writing about youth and tech, I have not seen a better resource for parents, teachers, police, and policymakers working in the youth and online-safety or 21st-century-learning spaces (pls see Related links below for teaching and parenting resources). [I've seen many, many great resources, mind you, but nothing quite as moving in the social-media space as this one.] Young people deserve to have their parents and teachers informed. And we all deserve exposure to the care and quality of thought that went into producing and presenting this 55.5-minute video that was presented at the US Library of Congress June 2008 (months later Wesch was named Professor of the Year; see his brief acceptance speech here). It's a global picture, which is essential, I think, given the nature of new media, and naturally it's not entirely a pretty picture – some viewers may find parts of it disturbing. But what picture of humanity is entirely beautiful? What's important is the humanity.

    I think Mike Wesch understands cultural shifts, media shifts, and human beings well for two reasons: 1) his own shift from 18 months' anthropological field work in a remote (Iron Age?) village in Papua New Guinea to teaching the anthropology of social media in and with YouTube in 21st-century Kansas and, 2) as his talks and sound bytes indicate, he loves working with people and seems to have a way of bringing out the best in them – even when the picture is grainy. You'll get that in his playlist.

    Related links

  • Parents, here's why we need to understand new media: Prof. Henry Jenkins at the University of Southern California says it's because social media "weren't part of the world of our childhood," and "now we're in a space where we're dealing with stuff our parents never had to deal with.... But we have to be open to the new ... there's much more valuable stuff here [online] than risky stuff.... At the end of the day, they need us to be informed about this. They don't need us looking over their shoulders; they need us watching their backs.... We have to recognize that they're going some place we never went and that's what's exciting and what's terrifying about the present moment," he says. [Thanks to for linking to this clip at the MacArthur Foundation site.]
  • Teachers, if you wonder how Prof. Wesch uses new-media tools in his classes, he describes how (both in his huge undergraduate anthropology classes and small graduate-level digital ethnography classes) in a talk he gave at the University of Manitoba a little over a year ago. You can read a description of how the class is set up here, with an insightful comment below it from Bryan, a teacher of 9th- and 10th-graders, about how social-media tools can be used at those grade levels.
  • Here's the spring 2009 work of Wesch's class - a 6-min. video they created out of the class's "trailers," or spring semester projects (each student produces one) - and one of the trailers.
  • This month YouTube named Wesch its Curator of the Month. He explains all that here.
  • My previous piece on Wesch, August 2008: "Watch this video, parents"

    Labels: , , , ,