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In a column published today on the website – on the occasion of the International Day of the Rights of the Child – Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography, Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF, stress the importance of developing concrete strategies for online child protection, digital empowerment and digital inclusion in order to provide a space safe, secure and reliable digital for every child.

Thirty-three years ago today, world leaders came together to adopt the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – thus recognizing globally that children’s rights are children’s rights. human beings and that they deserve the same protection.

The visionary leaders who drafted the Convention in 1989 could not have imagined how much childhood would be transformed by digital technology and the internet. Nevertheless, they have established a foundation that can help us navigate in an increasingly digital world.

Around the world, children are connecting earlier and staying connected for longer. Between 2010 and 2020, the time spent online by children has almost doubled in many countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sharp increase in screen time among children, with young Europeans being online for between 6 and 7.5 hours per day according to estimates. Recent research shows that the majority of children with smartphones say they use them “almost all the time” to connect, especially to social media.

The benefits of this profound change are obvious: it expands access to education, entertainment and digital opportunities. But the risks are also greater.