IGF 2023 Open Forum #86 Child participation online: policymaking with children

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (05:15 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (06:15 UTC)
WS 8 – Room C-1

Child Online Safety

Other - 60 Min
Format description: Format #8: Open Forum This format allows for different perspectives to be shared and encourages collaboration and the exchange of ideas. The Forum will be moderated both online and onsite.


Child and youth participation related to Online safety has become a priority for many stakeholders active in the fields of ICTs and children's rights. With one in three internet users being children the digital world has become a platform for them to exercise their rights, express themselves, access information, and engage in meaningful online interactions, as General Comment No. 25 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recognized. However, the fast-changing online environment new challenges and risks related to child online safety have emerged, which can only be addressed with children and young people as part of the solution. Child Helplines have reported an increase in the number of children reaching out to their services through online channels, whether to address risks happening online or through in person activities. Also, children and young people have been at the forefront of creating solutions to address the protection needs of their peers, many of which rely on the innovative use given to digital technologies. The importance of child participation in tackling these challenges and promoting online safety is crucial. Internet access and use have opened many doors for children and young people to express themselves, access information, communicate, and learn, and live free from violence. The more we can understand how the Internet is a means to address protection, the more we can help children and youth to be safer. ITU and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against children have joined forces and launched the POP: Protection through online Participation initiative, a multi-stakeholder research effort, which focuses on how children and young people use ICTs to access means of protection, when at risk of experiencing harm online or offline. Together with children and young people, the partnership works to release recommendations for policymakers, ICT Industry, child online protection professionals and children and young people to better develop, implement or access such online protection systems. Building on the evidence that children are already part of the solution when it comes to issues that affect them, ITU and partners create and work with national Child taskforces in five countries in five different regions to develop, inform, help implement and monitor national strategies and policies on Child Online Protection. Children and young peoples’ ideas have far more weight already that we may imagine in creating new spaced online – what is needed more is to allow them to be heard by decision makers. The session aims to highlight the importance of working with children when it comes to their safety and rights online and offline – helping children and youth being seen as partners, innovators and actors of change. The session will discuss the preliminary findings of the initiative’s efforts to map out child-led and youth-led online solutions that help children and young people to stay safe. It will emphasize the significance of effective coordination mechanisms both at national and global levels to recognize children's and youth’s and leadership into programs and systems that serve children and families to stay safe and access support online, as well as highlight the importance of meaningfully engaging children and youth as equal partners to strengthen safety.

Close coordination and referencing between online and onsite moderator Conduct online polls to assess how much the audience knows about the topic & what their suggestions on discussed challenges are Use video conferencing platforms to facilitate hybrid exchanges between participants. Use live interactive polling platforms like mentimeter to fuel discussions Provide a trello board space to facilitate access to information useful for understanding the topics discussed at the event Provide a housekeeping speech at the beginning of the session (everyone is on mute unless they are speaking so everyone can hear without background noise; mention if there is a chat and what content might be useful to share; confirm if the session is recorded or not)


Office The Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence Against Children


Afrooz Kaviani Johnson, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF 

Amanda Third, Western Sydney University  

Boris Radanović, Online Safety Expert, SWGfl 

Courtney Gregoire, Chief Digital Safety Officer, Microsoft 

Hillary Bakrie, Associate Programme Officer on Youth Innovation and Technology, Office of The Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth  

Onsite Moderator

Preetam Maloor, Senior Strategy and Policy Advisor, International Telecommunication Union 

Online Moderator

Fanny Rotino, Child Online Protection Officer, ITU


Hillary Bakrie, Associate Programme Officer on Youth, Innovation and Technology, Office of The Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth



Targets: 4.7: Digital skills and online safety education is built on a child and human rights-based approach, emphasising the compatibility of protection from violence and harm online and the empowerment, and participation of children and youth through online means. Children and youth will be empowered to realize the full range of their rights online and offline with the help of online means. The capacity-building activities also seek to proffer participants with the relevant knowledge, skills and empowerment to participate in the creation of alternative online spaces wherein online risks, including violence are minimized and harm eventually avoided. They invite stakeholders to promote content, including peer-to-peer programmes, that are designed and shown to help children and youth develop digital skills and empower them to build respectful communities that support online safety. Digital education should be holistic and should cover data and media literacy, alongside safeguarding issues. Education should also be extended to parents/carers, educators, policymakers and the ICT industry to support their role in promoting child online safety. 16.2: Online violence against children is on the rise, and offline forms of violence continue to be a major threat to children’s wellbeing. The Covid-19 pandemic has only emphasised the urgent need to act now. While many children connected for the first time, at much younger ages and often without the necessary awareness and skills to access safely the full range of their opportunities online, significant discrepancies have become flagrant not only with children but with all relevant stakeholders when it comes to awareness, knowledge, and skills to take an active role in online safety for children. Within ITUs Global programme on child online protection, special attention is provided to digital literacy education built on a child rights-based approach. The capacity building for all relevant stakeholders including children, youth, women and girls, educators, carers, policymakers and ICT industry stakeholders, calls upon all actors to take up their responsibilities and possibilities to contribute to the creation of a safer and empowering online environment for all users. Only by building the necessary capacity with all relevant stakeholders, the global challenge of online safety for children can be addressed. Additionally, the ‘Protection through online participation’ initiative looks to better understand how children and youth access protection and safety through digital platforms, looking to help increase violence prevention and response.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The impact of children and young people's perspectives on shaping new online environments is more significant than commonly acknowledged. The key advancement lies in ensuring that decision-makers listen to their voices.

It is imperative to acknowledge and encourage the active engagement of children and young people as collaborators, innovators, and drivers of positive transformation within the digital realm.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

We need the stakeholders to actively engage in promoting a comprehensive strategy for digital education and cybersecurity. This strategy must encompass not only technical competencies but also address critical domains like data and media literacy, in addition to concerns related to protection.

We should develop a collaborative effort and enhance the skills and capabilities of all relevant stakeholders, which include children, youth, women, girls, educators, caregivers, policymakers, and ICT industry representatives. It's a shared responsibility to fulfil our roles and capitalize on opportunities to create a digital environment that's not only safer but also more empowering for all users.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


IGF 2023  

Session Report- Child Participation Online: Policymaking with Children 

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2023 Open Forum on child participation online was organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The focus was not only to bring young people and children into the policy-making process but also to enable them to be part of the solution in matters that concern their safety and well-being online. Within the first round of the Forum debate, five stakeholders from across different domains ranging from academia, non-governmental and civil society organisations, and private sector discussed the contribution of children to creating solutions to the online challenges.  

It should be mentioned that ITU has been working on Child Online Protection since 2009 to facilitate the sharing of challenges and best practices among Member States. Since then, the involvement of children in the dialogue on children’s rights in the digital environment has increased so that the balance between protection and participation could be achieved.  All the speakers within the discussion proved the importance of children’s overall engagement in the debate as well as their understanding of the proper use of the Internet and the promoted platforms in order to better adapt the web to their needs.  

For example, according to the first speaker, Afrooz Kaviani Johnson, a UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, involving children in the elaboration of the Child Online Protection initiative is essential due to children’s approach to digital technologies, different from the adult’s one. Thus, working with children boosts the creativity and efficiency of projects, which eventually can help to explore actual, not perceived, risks in the online environment. 

Amanda Third, a professor from Western Sydney University, saw the answer to the question “how to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child” in the collaboration between adults and children. This practice was implemented in the project launched in cooperation with the child-facing organisations from 27 countries to inform the drafting of the UNCRC General Comment. Within the project, children attended 5-hour workshops where they talked about the things, they are experienced in. As a result of a collaborative effort between adults and children, General Comment no. 25, addressed to real experiences of children more than before, was made.  Another outcome of collaboration with children, according to Amanda, became an online safety app game and a set of trainings for three different age groups, released by the ITU on the 10th of October. 

Boris Radanovich, a SWGFL Online Safety Expert, admitted that adults do not have enough experience to connect with what children are living through, which proves effective to have a youth Advisory Board as well as support various targeted projects, launched by children all over the world. 

The fourth speaker, Courtney Gregoire, a Microsoft Chief Digital Safety Officer, revealed the fundamental reality that the digital environment was not originally designed for children. However, she claimed that with the changing realities, the ITU must strive to give young people a voice so that they can make greater use of their technological potential. 

Hilary Bakrie, an Associate Programme Officer on Youth Innovation and Technology in the Office of The Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, also recognised the importance of children and youth as equal partners, not as stakeholders who are occasionally consulted. She also promoted the POP, Protection through online participation, initiative. According to her, POP, firstly, helps to see how young people and children use the Internet to access protection support, and secondly, to scrutinise the role of peer-to-peer support. Eventually, she believed that these findings help to identify the ways the Internet and online platforms can be used to create solutions that can help children and young people stay safe. 

Within the second round of the debate, the speakers shared the works and frameworks being used at the national, regional, and global level to get young people and children to engage and be part of the policy making process where their voices and actions will be recognised. They also highlighted some of the issues faced by young people in smoothly navigating the policy-making process and getting the required acknowledgement and recognition. Questions from the participants were directed in the following core areas: 

  1. Information on Policy Transparency: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Policy process at the national, regional, and global level needs to include concrete questions about how to include children in policy. 

  2. Children Participation: Youths and children need to be encouraged to voluntarily engage in a respective and supported manner. This also includes supplying training for their safety as they are working on extremely sensitive topics and content, and the risk factors need to be clearly mapped out. 

  3. Accountability and Recognition: The energy of young people and children has been a game changer at the regional, national and global level. Concrete examples were Tunisia and the Philippines where open consultation with children helped shape the national Child Online Protection in Tunisia and the long history of child participation has brought reforms on topics like early child marriage.  

  4. Building Emergency response Plans: Research outcome has shown that user friendly approaches have revealed that young people and children feel comfortable asking for help online. This created a sense of belonging for the children as their voices are seen and heard.  

  5. Funding and Investment: Building ability overtime requires funding, developing of regional programs and global projects needs national adaptation strategies for Child Online Protection. For example, national task forces in 5 countries to guide governments on how to implement the strategies within the initiative.  

  6. Deep Dive into Online Safety and Limitations: Children and Young people have the right to speak up on matters that concern them, and their views respected. Children’s interaction with technology may be different from adults.