A family guide to children’s rights online
- Part of
The internet provides the opportunity for your child to explore, be entertained, be creative, communicate and learn. However, just as in the offline world, your child will face risks in the online world. This guide will explore how children’s rights apply online, the laws that exist to protect them from abuse and harm, and how you can support your child to exercise those rights and stay safe.
What rights does my child have?
Everyone in the UK is entitled to a set of fundamental rights and freedoms, and every child has additional rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). These outline what is needed for every child to grow up happy, healthy and safe. For example, the UNCRC states that all children have the right to privacy (Article 16), the right to be looked after and kept safe (Article 19), and the right to be protected from doing things that could harm them (Article 36). All these rights outlined in the UNCRC also apply to your child when they are online. Everyone responsible for the care of children is also responsible for upholding children’s rights, both online and offline.
What laws exist to protect my child online?
There are several laws in Wales and the UK that apply to online behaviour, including laws around harassment, malicious communications, the creation and sharing of indecent images of children, illegal content and hate speech. This guide from the NSPCC provides a brief overview of some laws around online behaviour.
From 2 September 2021, the Children’s Code requires online services and products such as apps, games, websites and social media sites likely to be used by children to be designed with them in mind to help stop them experiencing online harms linked to the processing of their data.
In 2021, the UK Government presented the draft Online Safety Bill intended to introduce laws that will:
- protect children and adults from harmful content
- prevent the spread of illegal content
Ofcom has been appointed as the UK regulator.
How can I help my children to exercise their rights online?
Your child has the right to be safe and secure online. While responsibility for this also lies with online services, governments and schools, you play a crucial role in keeping your child safe. Article 5 of the UNCRC outlines the importance of parents/carers in helping their children to understand and exercise their rights.
Here are some things you can do to support your child’s safety online.
Talk regularly about online safety
Discuss possible online risks with your child and what they can do to keep themselves (and others) safe from harm. Take some time to review the information on 'Keeping safe online'. There are many guides and resources to help you know how to start a conversation with your child.
Discuss their rights
It is important for your child to know their rights. Taking time to discuss these with them can empower them to recognise when their rights are not being upheld. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has published a set of resources to help you and your child to understand their rights.
Encourage your child to take responsibility where they can. Your child’s school may run initiatives that they could get involved with, for example they could become a peer mentor or youth ambassador who can help and support other children online.
Know where to get help, support and advice
Take time to explore with your child how to get help and support if their rights are not being upheld online. For example, you could show them how to use reporting tools on online services such as social media and contact organisations who can provide further advice. Find out about specialist reporting services on Hwb.
Where can I get help and support?
If you have concerns about your child’s safety or wellbeing online, you should always seek advice and help. This could be from the school, your GP, or an organisation that offers support for children and young people and families. There is also lots of information available online on sites such as:
Remind your child that they can also contact Meic, which offers free advocacy and advice for children and young people in Wales up to the age of 25. Call Meic free on 080880 23456, text on 84001 or talk to someone online at www.meic.cymru. The service is open from 8a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week.
If you feel that a child is being treated unfairly and that their rights are not being upheld online or offline, then you or the child can contact the Investigations and Advice service for the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.
You may find the following helpful for understanding and discussing your child’s rights online.
- 'UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – Guide for parents' – Children’s Commissioner for Wales
- To find out more about apps, social media and games, visit ‘In the know’ on Hwb.