International practices in child online protection

International practices in child online protection

In June 2022, the Center for Global IT-Cooperation prepared an analytical summary report “International Practices in Child Online Protection.” The report contains an analysis of foreign approaches to the problem of child safety in the digital space. It presents political trends and the main practical tools used in the field, identifies its typical problems and promising objectives. The report provides an overall picture of the field’s mainline tendencies existing abroad and informs about the most likely direction of future development. The findings are based on analytical studies, review articles, soft law instruments, laws, regulations, and public debate topics raised in foreign countries.

The material is targeted primarily at the professional audience, that is, managers of field-specific organizations; however, this information may be useful to a wide range of experts working for governmental entities, national regulatory and supervisory bodies, professional communities and associations, research organizations, IT companies and other stakeholders. The report can serve to analyze and even develop modern regulatory tools at the national level.

The study is relevant since child protection projects and international incentives are closely linked to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Child protection objectives are part of several Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 4, Goal 5, Goal 10, Goal 16.2 and Goal 17, that aim to “ensure quality education,” “achieve gender equality,” “reduce inequality,” “end abuse … and all forms of violence against … children,” and “strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development,” respectively. Today, there is a number of actors that actively implement practices designed to ensure safe children’s use of digital technology and help children and their parents master the basics of digital literacy and digital hygiene. The report prepared by the CGITC sums up the ways these goals can be achieved. Among the matters under consideration is a multifaceted set of goals related to the children’s right to information and access to technology, online identity, children’s online privacy, distance education, etc. Child online protection challenges are closely linked to social protection objectives, health care, the goals to improve the quality of education and promote moral and ethical values.

The study begins with a number of definitions and concepts used by the most representative and influential organizations in the field. It then lists the main risks and threats to children online in a systematic and structured manner.

The report analyses a wide range of practices and tools used by the following international organizations: the UN and UN agencies (UNESCO, UNICEF, UN Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence against Children, Committee on the Rights of the Child), ITU, IGF, ILO, OECD, Interpol, and the Council of Europe. Meaningful programs and child protection measures implemented at the national level, for example, in the UK, Greece, India, Ireland, Serbia, the USA, and the EU, are included in the study as well. It also covers the initiatives of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association, European Safe Online Initiative, iKeepSafe Coalition, Child Helpline International, Internet Watch Foundation, and WeProtect Global Alliance. The role and engagement of online platforms and digital services, such as Google, Facebook, ESET, TikTok, Instagram, and Mozilla, in child online protection are assessed too.

The report ends with a set of conclusions. For example, it notes the lack of coordinated effort to ensure children’s safety online at the global level. The absence of comprehensive legislative measures for child online protection both at the global level and in separate jurisdictions has resulted in the introduction of a wide range of products and services that serve primarily to help receive dividends. Achieving effective self-regulation among technology companies is a rather slow process that in many cases falls short of the current reality and contemporary challenges. Platforms and social networks frequently shift the responsibility onto parents, teachers, educational institution and even children themselves, who, for obvious reasons, cannot ensure their own safety in a changing world full of contradictions.

Authors propose practical recommendations and offer tools that could be used by state bodies, companies, business associations, public organizations and other venues. The Annexes to the report provide additional useful information on the covered topics.

The findings of the study can be taken into account by Russian state bodies, business associations and public organizations as well as used in the context of global partnerships within the EAEU, BRICS and other associations and unions.

The report points out that, in order to prepare further comprehensive measures and solutions for child safety in the digital space, factual scientific information, statistical data and practical experience, including the experience gained by specialized agencies and organizations directly responsible for providing safety in the virtual space, should be used.

Child Online Protection