Digital Rights

Children's Rights in a Digital Environment

Emerging technologies are currently transforming our world in fundamental ways, including how we work, play, and how we relate to one another. All indications suggest that this Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before, because this revolution will, for the first time in human history, merge the physical, the digital, and the biological.

Studies show that technology is increasingly becoming embedded in children’s lives from a very young age. Covid-19 has also accelerated children’s online presence, with more and more children spending time in front of screens – for entertainment, connection, online learning and play. For instance, 1 in 3 global internet users today are children. But, children don’t have the same agency and experience as adults.

While these technologies can often expand benefits for children, they are often not created for children or with children in mind. Therefore, they tend to expose children to new forms of threats and risks, including exploitation and abuse by adult users, cyber-bullying, disinformation; privacy violations, misuse of children’s data (especially for online advertising) and over-use of tech tools.
Studies are already showing that this unprecedented exposure to tech and the online world can hamper children’s potential self-development in childhood, adolescence and possibly adulthood. Other show that social media is already harming children’s mental and emotional and physical health and well-being.

Our Constitution and Children’s Act are clear: in all matters concerning the child, the child’s best interest shall be paramount. This means that all conduct relating to the designing, implementation, governance, and management of digital technologies must have the best interests of every child as the primary consideration.

This means that children’s views, experiences and best interests must be central when making policies and laws that govern the use of such tech, as well as when designing and conceptualising the tech itself. (Active participation, instead of passive inclusion.)


For more information please contact the Children’s Rights Unit:

Mr Dirk Swart
Ms. Omolara Asuni
+27 11 877 3600


The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.


This webiste is sponsored by UNICEF.