Children and the Internet: Protection and participation

Today’s children have entirely integrated the Internet in their interaction with others. They have adopted specific communication habits which have significant influence on their role in society and the way in which they can exercise their rights.

The Internet provides a great many opportunities for children to spend their leisure time, to learn, to express themselves and to influence decision making, in short: to enjoy their right to participation. Yet it is also a space where children are more easily exposed to violence, abuse or exploitation and therefore at risk of having their rights violated, in particular their right to be protected and to live in a safe environment, in accordance with their best interests.

Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse

The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (2007) contains provisions criminalising the use of new technologies – the Internet in particular – to sexually harm or abuse children. It is open to any country in the world.

  • The convention represents major progress towards preventing sexual offences against children, prosecuting the perpetrators and protecting their victims. Available data suggest that about one in five children in Europe are victims of some form of sexual violence.

It is the only international treaty to make sexual abuse a criminal offence, with criminal penalties for:

- those who recruit children into prostitution and those who have recourse to them;
- the production, supply, distribution and possession of child pornography and online access to it;
- soliciting children on chat rooms or online game sites for sexual purposes.

  • As a preventive measure, the convention recommends that primary and secondary school children be informed of the risks of Internet use.
Transversal programme "Building a Europe for and with children"

The programme “Building a Europe for and with children”, launched in 2006, aims to ensure an integrated approach to promoting children´s rights in the Council of Europe´s policies and help decision makers to develop national strategies.

Objectives
  • Promote children’s rights.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against children.
Achievements
  • Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers on:

- measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and to promote their active participation in the new information and communications environment (2009);
- measures to promote the respect of freedom of expression and information with regard to Internet filters (2008), with specific provisions on children;

  • Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on protecting the dignity, security and privacy of children on the Internet (2008).
Activities
  • “Through the Wild Web Woods” game, to teach children aged seven to ten how to browse the Web safely; available in more than 25 languages. The game promotes key Council of Europe values, including democracy, respect for others and children’s rights. The game is accompanied by an online teaching pack for teachers.
    The Council of Europe is carrying out a campaign under the slogan “ONE in FIVE” to stop sexual violence against children. There is an information pack for the campaign including child- and family-friendly posters and postcards, a TV spot, a book on sexual violence and a website. This includes the children’s book “Kiko and the hand”, accessible online and currently available in four languages, to empower children and teach the “Underwear Rule”.
    The Council of Europe is currently implementing its Strategy for the Rights of the Child for the period 2012-2015. Among other objectives, it aims at further protecting and empowering children in the new media environment by developing awareness-raising material, evaluating relevant national measures to fight harmful content and attitudes, and enhancing international cooperation.

www.coe.int/children