This paper argues that Internet governance bodies give little consideration to children’s rights, despite growing calls from international child rights organizations to address their rights in the digital age. Typically, when children are acknowledged it is in the context of child protection while their rights to provision and participation are overlooked. This paper specifically argues against an age-generic (or “age-blind”) approach to “users,” because children have specific needs and rights that are not met by governance regimes designed for “everyone.” In addition to addressing issues of child protection in the online space, policy and governance should now ensure children’s rights to access and use digital media and consider how the deployment of the Internet by wider society can enhance children’s rights across the board. As Internet use rises in developing countries, international Internet governance organizations face a key challenge in shaping, through multi-stakeholder processes, the emerging models of best practice that will underpin the development of positive norms recognized by states, parents and other relevant parties. The paper ends with six conclusions and recommendations about how to embed recognition of children’s rights in the activities and policies of international Internet governance institutions.

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The Global Commission on Internet Governance was established in January 2014 to articulate and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance. The two-year project conducts and supports independent research on Internet-related dimensions of global public policy, culminating in an official commission report that will articulate concrete policy recommendations for the future of Internet governance.
  • Sonia Livingstone is a full professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

  • John Carr is one of the world’s leading authorities on children and young people’s use of the internet and associated new technologies. He has been a senior expert adviser to the International Telecommunication Union and an expert adviser to the European Union. 

  • Jasmina Byrne is a senior researcher working in the United Nations Children's Fund's Office of Research-Innocenti, Florence, Italy.