The Defender of Rights is concerned about the exposure of children on the internet

The development of digital technology complicates the search for the delicate balance between privacy and child protection.

“For children, the right to privacy is not obvious.” In their annual report devoted to the rights of the child, published this Thursday, the services of the defender of the rights Claire Hédon and the defender of the children Éric Delemar looked into the question of the intimacy of the youngest. Around an omnipresent underlying question: how to respect the privacy of children, “enshrined in law” and “essential for self-construction”while protecting them?

The question arises in a particularly burning way with the development of digital technology. Today, 82% of children between the ages of 10 and 14 say they regularly go online without their parents, according to a investigation conducted by Ifop for the CNIL in February 2020. And according to the Directorate General for School Education (Dgesco), 25% of middle school students say they have experienced at least one breach of their online privacy.

“Special Vigilance”

If they feel that“The Internet provides an unprecedented opportunity to develop the sharing and construction of knowledge and culture”Claire Hédon and Éric Delemar call for a “special care” concerning the potential violence that young – and not so young – Internet users can suffer. “Public exposure of children can be dangerous”, warns the defender of rights. And to cite cyberbullying, cybersexism, provocation to suicide or even online hatred.

The report also mentions – without naming it – the phenomenon of “sharing”, the online publication of photos of children by their parents. Practices today “trivialized” which nevertheless constitute “Unprecedented invasions of the child’s privacy”says the report. “These daily intrusions deprive children of their ability to define their own image and identity, which is already inscribed in the public sphere”warn the defenders.

A necessary collective mobilization

Faced with the exponential development of the online activity of minors, who are increasingly present on social networks despite the theoretical age threshold set at 13, Claire Hédon and Éric Delemar insist on the importance of several tools, such as parental control or “right to be forgotten”. They also make several recommendations: include in the law the creation of compulsory digital education modules in college, offer training to parents on the model of those offered by the association E-Enfance, raise awareness among National Education staff school cyberbullying…

The mobilization of the school institution is particularly important, point out the defenders. Because if cyberbullying takes place, by nature, outside the walls of establishments, it is often in schools, colleges and high schools that harassment begins, before continuing online. “This continuity between school and the private sphere of the child’s life no longer leaves him any respite in his exposure to violence”, deplore Claire Hédon and Éric Delemar. Hence the need for all child protection actors to work hand in hand.

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The Defender of Rights is concerned about the exposure of children on the internet