Child Protection vs. Child Rights: Are They in Conflict?

24 October 2013 - A Workshop on Human Rights in Bali, Indonesia

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The following is the output of the real-time captioning taken during the Eigth Meeting of the IGF, in Bali, Indonesia. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the session, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.


     As you know, the whole point that we are going to discuss today in this session is the balance between child rights and child protection, or if you look at it the other way around, is there a conflict between children's rights to participation and their protection? So we will see at the end of the day where we stand, what are the thoughts and how we come up with our own views in this very, very delicate issue, important issue.

     I just wanted to say this is not a one‑off session, you can think of it as a continuation of a process that had started in the last year's meeting, right? And I was privileged to be the moderator for that particular session where we had the participation of young people in our panel. We had adult speakers, both coming from a child protection and child safety spectrum, and we had very, very engaged young people who are using the Internet today, day in and day out. Last year they provided us with very, very interesting ideas about what do they feel about the Internet, their own safety and so on.

     So if you can close the door. Please have a seat.

     My name is Anjan Bose and I'm the Program Officer for ITC representing the club international. And our organization works globally to combat, to fight against the sexual exploitation of children. That will probably give you a sense of where I come from and some of the views that you may hear during the course of some of the discussions.

     On my left, we have Larry Magid, he's from Connect Safely, the organizer of this panel. On my right, we have Janice Richardson, she's the coordinator for InSafe, the whole series of SchoolNet programs that run in Europe and a key mover before the Safer Internet Day. Next to her is John Carr, who is also an internationally known global expert on child online safety and share his views of the Internet and technologies. He has very recently joined a part international as our global advisor on child safety online.

     Next to him is Nevine Tewfit from the Ministry of ICT in Egypt, and Nevine has been involved in conducting an awareness program in Egypt and had been instrumental in creating a space for online safety engagements in the Arab region. On her right is Yannis Li from the DotKids Foundation in Hong Kong. She had also been engaged in the IGF process for the last few years. So it's a very diverse mix we have here. I would like to give the floor to Larry for his very short opening comments before we go to John.

     Okay. The other thing, speaking of John, this, as Anjan said, this is a follow‑up of a conversation we had last year where there was a disagreement. But I want to preface that disagreement by saying it was really a disagreement among very close friends and colleagues who are really focused on the same goal, which is what is the best way to achieve a society where people are safe and secure and free. I am not oblivious to the needs of safety and security can, and John is not oblivious to the needs of free speech, but we are going to differ, I suspect, and I think that's an important differentiation because this is a very important issue and there is no simple answer.

     I will say at the very beginning, even though I am going to take a position, I fully understand the complexity of the situation and it needs a lot of discussion. I have a feeling this is not the last time we're going to be talking about this issue.

     Yeah, I mean, basic proposition. Not everything knew is good. Not everything old is bad. And yet, and this is one of the things I do feel slightly resentful of when a lot of these discussions take place. Anybody who tries to raise questions or criticisms about the drift which technology is going, particularly in relation to kids, you often find, not saying this is true of anybody in this room, their views tend to be minimized or dismissed, or you're kind of portrayed as being some kind of boring old ‑‑ or reaction that just doesn't get it. It's an unhealthful attitude, I think. But it's a product very much, I think, of the way in which the Internet industry and some of the companies within it have sold the image of what cyberspace is and what the Internet is all about.

     If you were to listen to some of the campaigners or some of the people I sometimes have to deal with talking about the Internet, you'd think that the only thing the Internet was about was overthrowing tyranny, promoting free speech and things of that nature, and helping whistleblowers to expose corruption and things of that kind, and all in all being cool.

     Of course, the Internet is about those things. But it's not only about those things. And we can't ‑‑ every single debate or every single discussion about what's the right thing to do in terms of child protection cannot be reduced to a zero sum argument where any steps taken to protect children are always portrayed as being at the expense of or in can only be done if there is more limitations on free speech. That is simply an unacceptable way of conducting the debate. Fundamentally what I think is the difficulty that we have is that the Internet is trying to be too many things to too many people all of the time. And in the long run, it is not sustainable. It cannot ‑‑ it cannot go on indefinitely in the way that it's currently structured and managed is basically how I think about this issue.

     So, over many, many years in most countries we have developed a series of policies, rules, regulations to help each society bring up its children in the way that best fits its own values. For example, in the United Kingdom, obviously the country I know best, we have a rule that says that certain types of movies should only be seen by people who are over the age of 18. If you go to a cinema, they would be breaking the law if they let you go into that house to watch a movie that was rated as 18.

     Certain types of computer games can only be sold to people who are over 18. And there are ‑‑ alcohol, tobacco, there's a whole set of things which over time societies around the world have said we think that these types of ‑‑ this type of content, this type of activity is not appropriate for people below a certain age.

     Now, seems to me you can either criticize those rules and say these are bad rules or wrong rules, but I haven't heard anybody make that case. I haven't heard anybody say, let's get rid of all of the rules about film classification. Let's get rid of all of the rules about alcohol or gambling. Let's get rid of all the rules about who can have sex with whom, all those sorts of things. Generally that argument is not put. In other words, the legitimacy of the basic propositions that have underpinned a lot of child protection policy in many, many countries raise are not challenged, except in one space, and that's where it comes to the Internet.

     One of my basic points is I don't see any reason why just because the Internet is around and this new technology developed that we should abandon any notion that we no longer have a responsibility to uphold rules that we've developed for different reasons for many of the years.

     Here's a couple problems I see with this debate. Anjan is absolutely right, it's certainly not a finished or definitive view at the end of the day. It can't be. Much smarter people than me have been wrestling with these issues for years. One of the problems with the debate is it tends to take place on a very, very broad spectrum and very high level of generalization. We speak about people and young people as if they were a homogenous group. They ain't. There's a whole range of different vulnerabilities, different capabilities, existing amongst young people in families. Even within the same age ranges there can be vast differences between children's capacities and vulnerabilities and so on.

     You know, one of the things that we hear all of the time is the importance about media literacy as being one of the keys to unlock all of this. Of course, I'm 100 percent in favor of media literacy. The best defense, the best protection for any child under any circumstances anywhere in life, including the way they use the Internet is what they themselves know; what's between their left ear and right ear. Those are always going to the best tools. But tell me, how does media literacy work with 3‑year‑olds and 4‑year‑olds? 37 percent of three and 4‑year‑olds are going online regularly in the United Kingdom. 9 percent of three and 4‑year‑olds have their own iPad or tablet. Both of those numbers are going to go up as the technology gets cheaper and more easily available. Tell me, how does media literacy work with three and 4‑year‑olds? What you end up with is wagging your finger and telling parents, now you must not let them go on and use the Internet unsupervised. We know wagging your finger doesn't work. Look at other areas of social policy. Look at family breakdowns. Look at teenage pregnancy. Look at the whole range of other areas where we have tried to talk to people and tried to persuade people, families, parents to try and behave in a particular way and it hasn't been anything successful that we would want it be to. It's exactly the same, I'm afraid, in the way of the Internet. That's why I think the technology companies who develop this wonderful technology have a particular responsibility to do everything they can both in the way of education and awareness, but also a technical level try and support good practices amongst parents and good protection for kids.

     Because let's be clear, never before has a social space like the Internet existed. By and large we go through life more or less associating with people of our own age or within our own social groups and within our own social class. Actually, when you think about the rules about the kind of material that we can access and cinema rules about gambling and alcohol and all of these things, these are framed in that way, in terms of age groups and so on.

     The Internet is very disruptive in the sense that ‑‑ I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm simply stating it's a fact. The Internet, nothing like it has existed before where on a very, very large scale such a very wide range of people of different ages, different social backgrounds, different attitudes are brought together in the way that it is. And I just don't think that the way that we're handling things at the moment is likely to be sustainable in the long run.

     So I guess my basic point and my complete, my concluding point is this. The Internet is trying to do too much for too many people across too diverse a range of interests. That in the long run is not sustainable. We're going to have to move to an environment where we have a much greater degree of certainty about who users are Internet and once we have that, then I think a lot of other things will start to fall into place. That's not an argument against free speech. It's not an argument against kids having access to information. I'm absolutely very strongly in favor of that. Of course, I am. But it is an argument for saying that we need to think of a better way of doing it than we've managed up to now.

     We need to remember here that we're talking about speech. Now I know that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is a local ordinance that doesn't apply to the United Kingdom or any other country. But it's kind of an important principle. And the last time I read it there was no age qualification. It didn't say anything about you had to be a certain age to enjoy freedom of speech. It's a universal declaration. Yet, having said that, even in our own country, perhaps especially in my own country, there has never been respect for the rights of children when it comes to speech, when it comes to freedom of assembly. There's an enormous concern for them to be safe and secure and protected. That is very much part of our ethos of late, although sometimes one wonders whether that's properly applied given the number of kids that are in poverty, obese, and having other issues.

     When it comes to the rights of children, it's almost as if children are the property of their parents. That is very much true in the United States. In fact, I have to say the country you live in, John, I think many of the countries here have a more progressive attitude towards children privacy, than the United States does. In the United States, children have no presumption of any privacy vis‑à‑vis their own parents. A parent has the right to snoop on the child at any time on any medium. In fact, as I understand it, that is not the case in much of Europe and the United Kingdom where children have real privacy rights, in that no one, including their own parents, have a right to impose.

     So this is not ‑‑ I am not coming from a position of any moral superiority in terms of the country I happen to live in and come from. But I do think this speech issue becomes a very important thing. We're not talking about consumption of alcohol here. In fact, we're not even talking about consumption at all, although it's part of it. We're also talking about participation in the civic discussion. We're talking about the ability to engage. I am particularly concerned, for example, that there are limitations on social media. In schools it is often filtered out in band, whether it's Facebook, You Tube, Twitter or other social media platforms people where of all ages are communicating and interacting. I'm also concerned for some of the policies. For example, I was very pleased when just last week Facebook lifted its policy that prohibited teenagers to post in public. Many thought it was a great policy because it protected children against their own bad judgment from exposing themselves. I think about this amazing young woman, Malala Yousafzai ‑‑ I hope I'm pronouncing her last name correctly ‑‑ the 16‑year‑old from Pakistan who was shot at, injured. She's made speeches. I believe there was a documentary film made about her. She's reached out. She's talked to people. She's organized. She's public. Until last week, she couldn't have posted on Facebook in a public manner. So her free speech rights to do what she does off of Facebook were ‑‑ in a column I wrote this morning on this very subject for the San Jose Mercury News, I started thinking about my own background. As I can tell from the gray hair, I've been around a few years. Although I wasn't particularly active myself in the civil rights movement in the '60s, I was very much aware of it and I did become active later as a young college student in both the civil rights movement and anti‑Vietnam War movement. It was young people, not just college students, high schoolers, teenagers who put themselves on the line, who appeared on radio, who appeared on television, who in some cases were teargassed, beaten and arrested for political and social beliefs. And it changed the world. Who along with Martin Luther King turned around over 100 years of horrible racism ‑‑ didn't turn it around completely, but got us a monumental Civil Rights Act.

     Those young people if they were to have that same campaign today would not be allowed to post on that ‑‑ would not have been allowed to post because they weren't old enough to enjoy the rights. Because, God forbid, they might do something to harm them.

     This notion of protectionism, I'm not going to argue with you, John, about whether a two or 3‑year‑old should be protected from looking at porn or anything else that may be psychological harmful on their iPads, and I do think we need to find ways to make sure very young children can use this technology without having to be exposed to inappropriate content.

     But when it comes to teenagers or even tweens in some cases, it turns out that kids have curiosity, they're interested. It's going to get messy. There is no question, it's going to get messy. Guess what? This technology has been around long enough that we have plenty of evidence to show that there has not been a total wholesale reversal of health and well‑being. I happen to have two children in their early twenties ‑‑ actually, now in late 20s who, as far as I can tell, are neither serial killers or in any way abnormal or unacceptable and they were exposed to this technology at young age. So there are many, many people young. When I look at young people today, I don't see a generation of people who have been harmed by the technology, I see a generation that is healthier and more productive than any generation in history.

     When I look at the statistics on how young people are doing, teen suicide, everybody says, oh, my God, cyber bullying is causing teens to jump off bridges left and right. Since the advent of the Internet, suicide among teenagers has actually declined slightly. Sexual victimization against teenagers has dramatically decreased during the age of the Internet. Since the '90s, its gone down by something like 68 percent. This, by the way, is not made up by me, it's by the crimes against research center which is funded by the justice department which is run by real scientists, social scientists. They're not using Survey Monkey for their study, they're doing real research. The data is overwhelmingly positive. By almost every risk factor that you can look at except poverty and obesity, children and young people are doing better today than they were years ago. So this notion that somehow the Internet is turning our children into morally corrupt, bankrupt victims of horrendous crimes is not true.

   >> JOHN CARR: Larry ‑‑

   >> LARRY MAGID: I'm sorry, John, this is ‑‑

     Now, having said that, I think we all agree, one child bullied is one child too many. One child exposed to inappropriate content is one child too many. One child sexually abused is one child too many. Nobody in this room would ever disagree with that.

     Actually, this wholesale notion of protecting all children as if they're equally vulnerable may, in fact, contribute to the danger of children. It's a possibility and there is some research that backs this up; that by treating all children equally by assuming one size fits all, by creating these campaigns that try to exaggerate risk and instill fear among young people that you could actually be causing more danger than preventing. There's some data from this. The DARE program, just say no anti‑drug program was shown to actually have contributed to the use of drugs rather than taken away. The kids who went to the program were more likely to use drugs than kids who didn't take the program.

     There's also evidence that when you create a norm space approach to education, that improves behavior. If you think that your friends are not smoking, you are less likely to smoke. If the people around you are not obese, you are less likely to be obese. Studies were done by two sociologists at Perkins and Craig, that if you perceive that the school environment you are in is a positive empathetic environment where bullying is not accepted, you are less likely to bully. They have done research to show that rather than saying 20 percent of the students were bullies, you point out that 80 percent don't engage in that behavior and that improves the situation. You actually reduce the level of bullying. So this notion that we have to constantly be protecting and fear monitoring and scaring people into doing the right thing, actually, may be contributing in a negative way.

     Now, on the issue of ‑‑ oh, I always want to add, bullying by the way, is another statistic, people think there's an epidemic of bullying, bullying has actually gone down, not up. I can only speak for the U.S. I haven't studied European data or Asian data. I know that in the U.S. bullying has actually decreased slightly over the last few years, and cyber bullying is not on any kind of meteoric rise. It's higher than it was 20 years ago because it didn't exist 20 years ago. But there is not an epidemic that is affecting, depending on the study, anywhere from six to 25 percent of the teen population, youth population.

     But getting back to this notion of protecting, when it comes to protecting children against themselves, the best medication, and John quoted me, actually, I'm the one who coined that term, the best solution or the best filter is not the one that runs on the device, but the one that runs between the child's ears. I said that in 1997 at an American Links Up event, and that has been true ever since. The reason for that is that even if you are successful in protecting a child from age birth to 18, which is the age of majority in the U.S., with any luck that child is going to turn 18. And with any luck, that child is going to be an adult for a lot longer than they were a child. They are likely to live into their 80s or 90s or today 120. If you can get that filter working within the brain, instead of this constant protectionism, this constant don't do this, don't do that, don't access that, if you can get that filter working, not only will it protect them during their childhood, but it will protect them during adulthood. And we have seen too many cases of kids going off to college, you know, they're 18 years old, the switch got pulled, last week you're a child and filtered, not allowed to do this. Now you're a college student, you can do whatever you want. We've seen too many cases where things have gone really sour as a result of them not being psychologically prepared to handle adulthood. So I think it's important in the name of protecting children, we don't bubble wrap them. We provide them with leadership. We provide them with good role models. We provide them with good education. We accept the fact it's going to be a little bit messy. We do what we can. We protect vulnerable children, but not treat every child as vulnerable, that is going to be healthier and safer environment for our children than this constant overprotection.

     John, you would like to ‑‑

     Now, I think that is exactly the kind of material where that ought to be ‑‑ the precautionary principle ought to be applied. We ought to be better, be able to do better to preserve, particularly younger people, to being exposed to that kind of material. Better than we are now. Some people say that's a limitation of their free speech right. I think it may well be a limitation on some people free speech rights, but the UN convention on the rights of the child repeatedly makes it clear that it is perfectly legitimate to restrict certain rights or certain access, however, you want to put it, in order to defend children or protect children's health, upbringing, well‑being or whatever. I think it applies not just to pornography, by the way, I think that's the one most people speak about most frequently. I think it can apply equally to other things.

     Now we have to decide, are we willing to put up with that limitation or aren't we? Is it worth taking that step to protect children or are we willing to let it all go and see what happens 20 years down the track?

>> JANICE RICHARDSON: Yeah, certainly. And a couple of points, but first of all, I'm going to talk about the three Ps; positives, parents and partnership. I was a little curious when I heard that Internet tried to be too many things because, in fact, Internet is what we're all making of ‑‑ we were voting in our last session who was responsible for what Internet is. And there were many young people amongst us and the answer was me. That we are all the ones that are responsible. And yet, we did hear ‑‑ well, I wasn't around. But we did hear back in the 15th and 16th Century the very same argument against books; it was going to do this and it was going to do that. And I don't think that books harmed us. And now they're trying to get us and get young people to read books all the time.

     I think that today we are in a very broad ‑‑ in fact, broader than ever social and educational space which has so many opportunities. And, yes, certainly there are many things we have to look at within these opportunities. One thing that concerns me, for example, is the latest research on neuroplasticity that shows when he use the computer intensively, we use certain parts of our brain but are perhaps neglecting the pre‑frontal lobe which helps us look at the consequences of our actions.

     As educators, I do represent 30 Ministers of Education as well as the Unsafe Network here, I think we have to be conscious of that ‑‑ with young people. We have developed things like this with young people on trying to get them to reflect and really find a way of balancing what they're probably not getting because it takes a little while for the evolution of the human brain to catch up with what's going on in the way we're learning.

     Next, if I look at positives, first of all, for young people, we need positive content and we need positive experience. I have been involved in education for 48 years now. As a teacher, I mean, not as a student. One thing that I've learned is when there's positives, kids don't really go seeking the negative. Although, there is an exception. Kids absolutely love filters and blocking because it's the biggest challenge they get technically to find ways around it. So perhaps we should keep them up there, kids are getting much smarter technically by having to get around them.

     But when I talk about examples ‑‑ and perhaps one thing that they did forget in UN convention of the rights of the child is for a child to have its rights it also have to have a parent who is able to let it grow enough to be able to appreciate those rights. So I think the whole thing depends on positive experiences, positive learning, but also through the parents.

     John was particularly concerned about three and 4‑year‑olds. But I would say we can draw a parallel here. Babies, why do we encourage that they are breast fed? It's actually because they get immunity from the mother and then they really get a good kick start in life because they're immune to many diseases and illnesses. It's pretty much the same, actually, from my experience with children. A child who begins going online with a parent and who shares the experience, and when that experience is continued, then that child will grow sharing things, speaking to parents. And when anyone comes to me and says, what's the best thing I can do to protect my child from all these dreadful things, I say, speak with your child. But let's look ‑‑ I think there's an example. You know that the last ‑‑ yesterday, in fact, there was a very big Buddhist celebration. And I can't get the word right, Galedon or something. It's a very, very important event someone was telling me because in families they have to look at the good and the bad. And I say, but why the bad? Why would you make a sacrifice to the bad?

     Someone explained to me that you have to have a balance. There is bad in life and that's the way you build resilience, and that's the way you recognize good, and that's the way you're able to do better things and be better.

     But when I'm talking about parents there, my second, P, there's also something very important that you should know. We run 30 Help Lines across Europe and we receive some ‑‑ I think about 200,000 calls in a year across our 30 countries. One of the problems that we encounter is that when a child calls a Help Line parents can see, there is a trace that the child has called a Help Line. And imagine a child in an abused family where they have no real support, they can't turn to the web because the parents can snoop. They can spy on their children. They can find out where they go. Google held a hack‑a‑thon two years ago and one of the projects that was developed there was actually a button for the Help Line that you can put on the browser and once the child has hit the button and talked to someone on the Help Line, the button disappears and everything is wiped off the computer so it's absolutely not visible that the child visited a Help Line. It is a really poor society when we need to bring things like this in, but I think we can't continually think if a parent puts a blocking device on the child's computer that it is necessarily a good thing.

     Thirdly, I'd like to talk about partnerships because in the session that we just did, we drew up six strategies for the future. It very much came up that education, E‑confident care, privacy by default, but also together we should develop norms. But industry was considered to be one of the most important players. And I think that we should look at the fact that industry is bringing innovation. We need this to keep progressing for the good and for the bad so that we in society can weigh this out, can balance it, and can find a way forward. And lastly, it's a total illusion to think that young people can learn to use these social tools by themselves. They need help and yet schools really aren't handling this.

     We did a project called Social Media and Learning and Education. 100 teachers across the world worked with us. The key thing that came out if we really want children to have their rights respected, if we really want them to get the best out of Internet, learning in class to use these tools wisely, learning by example is most important.

     I'll finish with the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Children are great imitators, so let's give them something great to imitate."

     So briefly, yes, our legal framework is in place, okay? So, theoretically, all is fine. All is set very well and practically the situation is completely different. I'm very proud to be a civil servant, and at the same time to be someone who has been working with many members of the panel here and someone who has worked also with Egyptian children. I have to say that on the level of freedom of expression and protection, we are facing a very big challenge because our country is going through a real transformation, a social economic and political transformation. And this transformation that is happening offline is also happening online.

     So while we have all these treaties, all these laws in place that are trying to balance as much as possible between the rights and the protection of the child, we find that society is actually being polarized. We have, like, a dichotomy. On the one hand we have schools and parents who are trying to overprotect the children, overprotect them sometimes at the expense of their freedom of expression, as long as they are safe, as long as they are not exposed to any risks or threats online, as long as their culture, their principles, their values, their religion is well preserved, this is one camp. And, on the other hand, we have a community, Civil Society or children industries, children were actually taken to the streets in 2011 in Egyptian revolution and again on the 30th of June who have been ‑‑ who are actually younger than 18 and who have been extremely, extremely active on Facebook without revealing their real age, who have been extremely active on Twitter, as well, and to a large extent reshaped the political agenda. I know of several names of those children who have not reached the age of 18. They are children, according to the UN convention, who have been engaged in the civil movement that have taken place in political movements or who have been killed in these movements.

     So we have two scenes, actually. The school and the ‑‑ how school is trying to overprotect, then the streets or the children who have access to the Internet in IT clubs who are not ‑‑ that are not completely supervised and who have actually shaped the political agenda of Egypt to a large extent and who have been actually pushing the border lines of what could be acceptable by the child.

     I think that we are facing quite a big challenge. And this challenge is faced by teachers, by the education and institution, by parents and by the society at large, and that it requires really a social dialogue to set really the rules of the game or to set some basic principles for online, online interaction of children. We still have a very long way forward because I think that these rules are not yet clear. They are not yet set and they require really, a real peer dialogue, peer‑to‑peer dialogue.

     They also require something I don't see enough in Egyptian society, which are NGO concerns with the right of the child online, not just the child for life, for physical protection for food, but also the right of the child for expression of opinion. I think our NGOs are busy doing other things for the moment.

But I also have strong hopes that we have strong institute, the national council for childhood and motherhood that is trying to integrate new text in Egyptian, the new Egyptian constitution that is currently being written about the rights of the child. And I hope that this counsel for childhood and motherhood will also have strong activities on the ground. They have history in awareness raising and I hope they will continue along this line.

     So finally, I have to say that the solution is not, again, it's not a zero sum game, as John mentioned. The guided supervision or the media literacy of the parents and the teachers and society in general is irreplaceable for to guide the child, particularly if the child has outgrown, actually, the teacher, sometime and his own parent.

     Thank you.

     And last but not the least ‑‑ and I'm breaking all the conventions here. We normally give the floor first to our young speaker, but in the flow of our discussion, I think you would get the highlight here. We need to hear from you, what is your thought on this issue? Because that's what kind of is the representation of the youth and the children in this room and outside. Your honest thoughts on this one.

     So what I want to raise is it is really important that we really engage and empower the children in this discussion. That of just ‑‑ I mean the industry also that we think what we can do and what I think. Because actually, I mean, because the children, they actually no better what they want and what they really think is good for them. I mean, and so in order to, like, really, really make this ‑‑ I mean, make sure this, the rights is being, being empowered or heard I think is really important that we engage them in the process. Because right now I think ‑‑ of course, Janice, you have a panel that involve a lot of young people, which is good. But at the same time, at the policy making level I think there is not enough involvement with the young people. Usually they speak, but I mean when we make policy, we actually didn't really involve those ‑‑ I mean, I think. So actually, I think with this ‑‑ our foundation, with this DotKids foundation, actually we're hoping to really involve advisory council, also that we can get children to join in and discuss with a guideline that we can put in place to set the framework that, I mean, it can imply for this Internet space that is especially for them. So to make sure it is a good place for them.

     Yeah, so I think ‑‑ I think we always forget ‑‑ we always focus on what the parents want, that is really want to protect them, but we never hear what the children really want. Because sometimes they don't really want their privacy to be invaded as such. Yeah.

     Before I open up to the floor, just a quick part, a realization that this is a comment that John had said earlier, we have spoken about this many a times, is that we do fundamentally believe in the need for education awareness. We are seeing that. We are hearing that a lot. In areas where the education doesn't reach the intended population; right, whether it's because of the family, because of the parents perpetrating the abuse against the child, the child being under the age of understanding the education, maybe the formal convention of education. We may need to think of alternate forms of education in those areas. Is what do the ownership of the states, what is the accountability of the state and of the stakeholders in terms of protection. I'm not talking about depriving protection that impinges the rights of the child. I'm just alluding to the fact that there must be a parallel complimentary setup that must be put in place where education fails to achieve the intended purpose. So just a thought I wanted to share with you in relation to this discussion.

     With that, I open up the floor to feed into this very thought‑provocative topic, discussion.

     Anybody want to go first? Brave enough?

     How about, okay? So Susie here. And I will take a few more hands before ‑‑ is there anybody else?

     Okay. You there, right. So I will ‑‑ now I'm coming back to my convention. I'm giving to the young people first. Okay? Please introduce yourself, your name and your organization that you represent.

     So, yes, please.

     The thing I wanted to say was that in the UK there is an increase in peer‑on‑peer child ‑‑ children raping children, gang rape of girls. And this is becoming a big issue at the moment. So while the statics may not have changed in terms of people's children being murdered, those sort of statistics, we're seeing a different side of life. My question is, I guess this is as a parent rather, as someone who works in similar field, is do we know the impact yet of what ‑‑ of the access to hard core pornography in terms of relationships, of the access to a type of material that simply just wasn't there when I was a kid? You know, my kids have both seen really, really hard core porn and have seen it for years. That's just a reality now. That's just ‑‑ I wanted to throw that out, what's the long‑term impact?

I think there is a tendency to look at the problems that exist and assume we need to regulate the entire population because a small number of people are going to see something and react. And whether that's terrorism, whether that's sexual abuse, whatever it is, there will also be a small number of people who react. We knew ‑‑ for example, I don't want to drag this panel into ‑‑ how can I say this? We do know that people who commit crimes may look at pornography. But again, getting back to that correlation, causation, that doesn't mean that people who look at pornography necessarily commit crimes. So I think we need to be very careful about that. I haven't looked at UK statics. I don't know how prevalent they are. I don't know if it's a blip or trend, you probably know more than I do. I just caution you that just because there are some horrific cases that have occurred, that we don't automatically make the assumption these are happening as a result of the Internet.

     What we do know longitudinally, we do ‑‑ again, to repeat, since the Internet has grown, since the '90s there has not been overall, at least in the United States, an increase ‑‑ by the way, when I was talking about violence against children, I was also talking about sexual violence. Rape in the United States is down. Now, again that doesn't mean there couldn't be a situation where a bunch occurs. But overall, over there the past 20 years, there has not been an epidemic of sexual crimes against young people that have correlated with the growth of the Internet. So that we know from research. It's impossible to know what was in the minds of the people who committed the crimes you're describing.

   >> ANJAN BOSE: Janice, you want to respond?

     Maybe can I say one thing the point Larry mentioned and what Susie said? Because they are kind of two different things in a way. You are mentioning the impact of pornography on children, and what are the ramifications of exposure from an early age and so on. What you alluded to, Larry, is the impact of pornography on offenders and the impact of being exposed to pornography and committing a crime. I think there is bit of distinction here, they're two different things. John can probably come into the picture later on, the UK, two very recent cases that led to the consternation. So maybe we'll hear from Janice first.

     I was very concerned about this and the only real figures I could find were about games. There has been a lot of research on games and very in depth longitudinal research on kids playing games. And, in fact, it seems that the findings are, if you have a group of children who play games, violent games, anti‑female ‑‑ antifeminist games, consistently. You have a second group who just play from time to time. And you have a third group who actually never get their hands on the Internet because they're not online. It is proven that it's the not‑online group that is showing the most violence and who are the most violent. So you spoke about causation ‑‑ and yeah, we don't really know is it because they're deprived of an opportunity? What is it? But I found that that information that's coming out time and time again has sort of killed the debate on violence. And I think that perhaps we ‑‑ it could be applied across other things. I can't guarantee it, but I think that we can learn from the areas where such research has been done.

     And I don't think the analogy with the emergence of books in the 15th or 16th Century, whenever it was, or the analogies about television and video, I think they all completely missed the point. Because this is ‑‑ the Internet is such a qualitatively and quantatively different medium. Any of those individual things, that it's simply obvious to me that we are engaged in a big experiment. Nobody can know what the long‑term effects of this are going to be. I think there are early signs from bits of it, bits of what's happening on the Internet that don't look good. Surveys among young females in Britain talking about what their boyfriends now expect of them in terms of sexual behavior, pressures that young men feel they're under, too. All of these things are being shaped and coarsened by things that are being seen in playgrounds and in schools every day. Certainly there has been no period in history when anything like this has happened before. So to kind of cheerfully say, oh, you just don't get it, or you're worrying too much, I think really is not a very satisfactory response. You have to acknowledge, at the very least, these questions need to be considered. And in my judgment so far, we are not getting the balance right.

     Now, political bloggers and, you know, political activity on the Internet, there's a whole set of issues as it were, outside of this frame of reference. I've got very little or nothing to say about that. But I do think that there are issues about the kind of content that is too easily available, particularly to young people that do raise these sorts of questions.

And adults and people that have been around a bit longer, they don't know everything, that's absolutely sure. But they've got a degree of wisdom that they've acquired over the years and it's their responsibility as parents to balance all these things together in a way that hasn't been achieved hither to. I don't believe the message coming out of Silicon Valley is the only right way to go. I'm afraid too often people fall for it without thinking critically about what lies behind it.

   >> ANJAN BOSE: We have one more hand here; right? So I'll go with you first at the back and then come back to you.

     Whether it's up to the State to do it entirely? Not the State cannot pick up the responsibility of parents in that process. But I think the danger is here, if we base this debate on impact of porn or the evidence of harm, that's a trickier slippery slope really. Because you will find a few studies that will harm, equally if not more which point to no harm. But you know, we know that there are people who are actually harmed by pornography, if that makes any sense.

     Yes, from the back.

     I think even among parents one needs to be careful that they put thought into how they use this technology. For example, Internet filtering has been around for a long time. I don't object to Internet filtering at all. I think it is an appropriate tool for some families. But I do object to these sales people who go around and try to convince parents that they have a moral responsibility to install it to protect their children from horrible consequences. If 2004 it was a predator. In 2008 it was a bully. In 2013 it's the privacy invader. These moral imperatives that one must install the software when millions and millions of children are growing up, including my own, without the use of that software and seem to, as far as I can tell, done just fine. They're the ones that are running Facebook and Google? They may not be running it, but they're doing the engineering. They're the kids bringing us into the 21st Century with a vibrant economy, again, after our generation blew it in 2008. So I think that one ought to consider these technologies. For example, the lady in the front row, Rosalind? She had a thoughtful reason to employ technologies, but I don't think there should be this moral imperative that you must use them. I think again every family must consider. They need to consider what other resources, it may be education, peer pressure, it may be parental close involvement. We, for example, our children, and this is I realize a 20th century vestige, they used computers in rooms we have access to, so there was a lot of interaction. Today with mobile devices that's much more difficult, if not impossible. We need to think about things other than technological solutions. I do applaud you for thinking beyond legal solutions.

     Two things to say on that, one is the committee on the rights of the child which is the sort of body that maintains ongoing sorts of supervision or keeps an eye on what's happening under the convention on an ongoing basis is going to have a ‑‑ is it ‑‑ actually, there's a lady here that knows much more about that than I do. My understanding is with UNICEF's very direct involvement there is going to be a discussion and consideration of Internet, the type I mentioned in the childhood safety in the light of the convention. So it won't result in amendment to the convention, I don't think, or new protocol, but there may be a day of comment and advice given about how governments and other agencies might determine the convention in things like emergence of the Internet.

     Just very quickly, you can see ‑‑ I mean, there's all types of clauses in the convention which are qualified to some degree or another. And whilst it's true, and I applaud this, of course, the Internet should be a medium for children to use for all kinds of things, but not to harm themselves. That's what the other clauses say, that you do have a right, a legal right under the convention to make restrictions, if necessary.

     It's just necessary. We can only use our reasonable judgment. This is not physics or chemistry where you can go to laboratory and put a little bit of this here and a little bit of that here and get a definite outcome that everybody can agree on. We have to go on the available evidence. And there isn't accumulation of evidence about aspects of harm and also our own judgment. We can revise it later. How many times has Facebook changed its privacy settings? Why? It's learned. Adapted. Developed. I'm saying let's go the other way for a little while and see how that works out.

   >> ANJAN BOSE: Okay. Your turn. Please introduce yourself.

     I agree on the safeguard issue. I really want to share a really good quote that I like from the NAACE, which is UK community of educators, technologists and policy makers, and they had this recent press release which I thought was good. "Pupils are more vulnerable overall when schools use lockdown systems because they were not given enough opportunities to learn to access and manage risk for themselves."

     So I think this really means, for example, driving, yes, obviously it has dangers, many people get killed every year, but it doesn't mean we don't teach the children to drive. We're not asking them to speed in the beginning or drive really slowly which would cause block down in traffic. I think it's about taking the right midpoint and having the right safeguards. So I think that is something that is good to think about.

     The other point to respond about the access to hard core porn, let me give you an example. Think we all, just the way ‑‑ I'm not homogenous, I think all countries are not homogenous and I think we really need to take that into context. We did a survey in five countries in Latin American and the same in Africa. Unfortunately, we surveyed a few hundred kids in each of these countries, it was the first time they were being asked questions on online protection. And a lot of the kids admitted to seeing hard porn through various devices. One of the things is we find that in these countries and other countries they're also using cyber cafes to look at that. There are cabins ‑‑ a Muslim country. Cyber cafes and cabinets, children, adults. It's the same in Nepal where I come from. There were so many examples. In Peru, cyber cafes, cabins, kids admitted to all kinds of things going on between adults and kids.

     My point is there are various ways children are doing. But I think there is also risk of putting the burden of protecting the children on the children themselves, especially when I think this is very convenient for the government. When we look at child protection, this is one of the most underresourced sector in a lot of countries. UNCRCs almost universally ratified. Governments are not putting enough focus and looking at child protection issues. And what that means to translate and to put in protection mechanisms or even education mechanisms, or even mechanisms to train teachers, parents, children themselves to keep themselves because it needs resources, it needs political, it needs be prioritized. If you put the responsibility on the children themselves, it's very convenient for the governments to shy away from these discussions and not to create those platforms and the political to have the discussions with children and parents with education with industry so we come up with the best solutions. I think it is very convenient. So we have to be aware of this risk by putting the burden of protecting the children on the children themselves. Thank you.

     I also want to quickly address John's ‑‑

     I kind of agree with you, John, where we are in a situation where we have no clue what the situation is going to bring. Positive doesn't prove anything, a positive ‑‑ as you pointed out, it does take time. If we're going to sit around and wait another hundred years and do nothing and not allow progress to go on, then who knows what harm that would cause?

     So just because the Internet is relatively new and we don't know the full impact of that threats that are out there, doesn't mean that we necessarily have to put the hammer down to prevent harms that we're not sure will ever occur until we have some evidence that there actually are a high probability of these risks. We need to watch it. I think we agree on that. But I don't think he need to suddenly restrict progress because we have no idea what the future is going to bring.

   >> JOHN CARR: I know everybody else has to go, and I certainly do. I just wanted to say, the precautionary principle is an established point of view, very respectable point of view when it comes to protection of children. If you have reasonable ‑‑ nobody is talking about stopping progress. Absolutely not, I want the Internet to continue to develop and be the exciting leader that it is. I don't think that is any way inimical notion where there is reasonable evidence of harm or potential harm and the case is unproven we should err on the side of caution when it comes to children. That's all.

(Off microphone.)

     So unless there is ‑‑ yes. Okay. One ‑‑ any other hands? I think you get the final say.

     Okay. So we would eagerly await for the third version of this discussion next year. Okay? So version three. So unless there is a compelling pressing issue that anybody ‑‑ okay, Joonas has a point. Anybody else from the floor?

     So, yes, Joonas.

     Okay. So with that, I would like to thank everyone, particularly my panelists and all of you for spending the last session of the day with us and with your eager participation. Hopefully you will have a good evening today and see you tomorrow. Thank you.

(Applause.)



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