Children and young people are widely celebrated for their enthusiastic, literate and creative uses of the internet and associated digital media, while also feared for insofar as they are among the most vulnerable to the associated risks. In consequence, internet use among children, families and schools has been widely researched. Yet there are crucial gaps in our knowledge, from the glaringly obvious – for instance, the number of children online – to the subtle but significant question of whether and how the digital is reconfiguring children’s fundamental rights. In this lecture I confront unfolding debates over child rights and internet governance with an account of the everyday messy realities of children’s lives on and offline amidst wider debates over the increasing mediation and management of identity, learning, privacy and relationships. In the process, I shall interrogate the paradoxes and problems of evidence, policy and practice that are becoming pressing for those concerned to advocate for children’s rights in the digital age.
Sonia Livingstone is a Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. She is author or editor of nineteen books and many academic articles and chapters. She serves on the Executive Board of the UK's Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), for which she is the Evidence Champion. She was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2014 'for services to children and child internet safety.' She leads the project, Preparing for a Digital Future, which follows the recently-completed project, The Class, both part of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Connected Learning Research Network. She directed the 33-country network, EU Kids Online, funded by the EC's Better Internet for Kids programme, with impacts in the UK and Europe. She gave a recent TEDX talk on How children engage with the internet.
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