Joint statement on children’s rights in the online world on Human Rights Day 2022

Children and young people’s digital lives are ever expanding, and on human rights day, we would like to take this opportunity to call for their rights to be supported and protected in the online world.

There is already international work in this area to draw on. In Europe, California and the UK, Codes are being developed to regulate the conduct of internet companies that impacts on children and young people.

Until recently the Federal Government has allowed the companies themselves to draft their own codes in Australia. We are concerned that this is not going to produce strong enough improvements. Many Australians including children and young people themselves agree.

Families and young people are supportive of independent regulation. YouGov polling found that 71% of Australian adults did not trust the social media industry to draft codes. (73% said they would prefer regulators to draft codes around children’s online safety, and 76% for online privacy). Young people agreed. Only 14% of teenagers polled earlier in the year said they trusted social media companies to write the rules about online privacy.

As the Government considers new approaches to improving children and young people’s privacy, safety and wellbeing online, we urge them to consider these international developments and reconsider self- and co-regulation. The reliance on self- and co-regulation in the past has demonstrably failed many of us, including children and young people, and new approaches are required.

In advancing children and young people’s rights we encourage the government to move towards more robust regulatory arrangements for the digital world.