New iRights framework to bring together industry and Government to better empower and protect young people online
The iRights initiative aims to encourage all companies and organisations with a digital footprint to enshrine a universal standard of rights into their digital services and communications to help protect and inform young people online.
iRights has today published a report which found that, although children and young people are often presented as ‘digital natives’, in reality they lack the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the risks of the internet or to benefit from its many opportunities.
Speaking ahead of the report’s publication, Baroness Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security said: “iRights gives a unique insight into how government can join with technology companies, civil society and business to make a better digital world for young people. We are using iRights in education, business and in our own services and digital communications.”
Baroness Beeban Kidron, iRights Founder and Crossbench Peer, added: “iRights would transform children and young people’s experience of the digital world. They are spending an increasing amount of time online yet fail to properly understand the internet’s many risks and abundant opportunities. We are therefore delighted by the UK government’s endorsement of our efforts, which will help move iRights from the theoretical to the practical.”
Today’s iRights report, titled Enabling Children and Young People to Access the Digital World Creatively, Knowledgeably and Fearlessly, followed a year of research by the civil society group and found that children and young people:
The report has led to a series of other announcements today. The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has announced that she is launching a task force, Growing Up Digital, dedicated to improving the online lives of young people through the iRights framework.
This task force will build on iRights and work undertaken by Schillings, an international multidisciplinary reputation and privacy consultancy, which published its own analysis of iRights today, iRights: The Legal Framework. The Schillings report shows that existing legislation strongly supports the five iRights principles and that the UK can set a worldwide precedent in terms of protecting children and young people online.
Major companies have already pledged their support for iRights and plan to launch their own initiatives to further its cause. They include Sky, Barclays, the BBFC, the Southbank Centre and Freeformers, which provides digital skills training to young people for free. Earlier this month, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon signed the framework and launched a Commission to establish how to make Scotland iRights-compatible.
iRights now has nearly 200 signatories from across government, business, technology and children’s and civil society groups. The iRights coalition is currently hosted by leading children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau.
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, said:
“If children of today and tomorrow are to grow up digitally, we need to be sure that the rights to protection and empowerment that they enjoy in their lives, are embedded in the new digital world they inhabit. As the legal guardian of children’s rights and best interests in England, this is of uppermost concern to me as Children’s Commissioner. I am grateful to iRights for the groundbreaking work they have undertaken in this fast developing area. I intend to build on this work to establish a new Growing Up Digital taskforce, which will launch in the autumn.”
Jenny Afia, Partner, Schillings, said:
“Our research has revealed that the law of England and Wales broadly supports the five iRights principles. The challenge is that the law isn’t being applied. Our sense is that there’s a big appetite amongst commercial entities to do the right thing by children and young people, but there is uncertainty as to what this entails in practical terms. To help companies overcome this challenge, Schillings will now embark on producing a set of guidelines that will enable companies to address this issue.”
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister for Scotland, said:
“We believe that every child and young person has the right to grow up in a safe environment – that principle applies to the virtual world too. That is why we’re proud to support the iRights coalition and to ensure the Scottish Government is doing its bit to keep children and young people safe online.”
Ashok Vaswani, CEO, Personal and Corporate Banking, Barclays, said:
“If we are to do trusted business online then we have to have to make commitments to the communities that we serve. iRights sheds light on the way in which we should consider our interactions with children and young people. We are now working to make sure we manifest all the principles in our digital space.”
Gi Fernando, Co-founder of Freeformers and long-time iRights partner, said:
“To be a 21st century citizen, children and young people should have the right to critically understand the digital world and be confident in managing new social norms. iRights is an important step towards achieving that.”
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau said:
“The internet and digital technologies are fundamental parts of children and young people’s lives, shaping the world in which they live. But digital technologies are rarely designed with their needs in mind. iRights provides an empowering framework for realising the potential of the internet for children and young people so they can enjoy a safe and vibrant digital life.”
The full iRights report and framework can be found at www.irights.uk.