Building a Europe for and with children

Young people advise Council of Europe on the digital lives of children with disabilities

On 21 April 2015, the Council of Europe invited three young children‘s rights activists with physical disabilities along with three adult experts to Strasbourg to participate in a brainstorming on the rights of children with disabilities and the Internet. The objective of the meeting was to gain an insight into the digital lives of children with disabilities and the Internet and to identify data gaps and possible issues for research.

The meeting began with a question and answer session where the young participants spoke about their and their peers‘experiences with the Internet, including social media. The session provided the adult participants with valuable insights into how children with disabilities experience the digital environment.

One of the key outcomes of the meeting was that more information and research is needed to be able to protect the rights of children with disabilities in the digital environment. It was felt that this research should be conducted in a participatory way and participants appreciated that children and young people have been on board from the outset. All participants agreed that the Internet and information technology in general provide a wealth of opportunities for children with disabilities. To better seize these opportunities, however, the young people recommended that more targeted computer and Internet literacy education should be provided for children with disabilities. Research also indicates that children with disabilities seem to be more vulnerable to online risks such as grooming and bullying. Lastly, the discussions indicated that many of the issues affecting children with disabilities in the online environment, such as accessibility, hostility, and discrmination, are similar to the everyday issues they are confronted with in the offline environment.

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