For a long time, the issue of Child’s rights has attracted the attention of different stakeholders, especially the United Nations. This points out to the fact that Children’s rights are a global societal issue that needs to be addressed continuously. Among the most vocal rules on Childs Rights by the United Nations was through the adoption of the United Nations General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This special document provides the universal standards of care, treatment, and protection of children and has been ratified by 193 countries. The convention defines a child as any individual under the age of 18 years. The rights provided under the UN convention are intertwined and all equally important. Among the rights provided in the convention include the right to live, right to a name, right to an identity, right to live with the parents, right for an opinion, right to choose religion and beliefs, right to privacy, right to information essential for their well-being, and other rights meant to promote the well-being of the children. The UN asserts that it is the responsibility of all adults to do what is best for the children. It also places the responsibility of upholding the child’s right to the family and the government. The issue of Children’s Rights continues to be a global societal problem that can be addressed through global campaigns and awareness initiatives to promote the Children’s Rights in the current digital era.
Reasons Why Children’s Rights is a Societal Problem
Children’s rights have been described in different international and local legal instruments. These offer special consideration to the children based on their unique and vulnerable status. Despite these rights being deemed as important by the International community, they have for a long time been overlooked with children not being considered as rights bearers. The rights of the children identified covers areas such as general rights, protective right, civil rights, development and welfare rights, and special circumstances’ rights (Bell, 2008).
Barret (2017) highlights ways in which children’s right are a societal issue through the article addressing the child’s right on protection from drugs. Drugs are among the important issues that the United Nations through the Child’s Rights Convention highlighted that children need to be protected from. The drug supply chain is indicated to negatively affect children at each stage from production to consumption through acts such as drug use, parental drug dependence, drug-related violence, and exploitation in trafficking. Among the social issues where the children’s’ rights are impeded in on sexual abuse. This has been noted to be a main global public health concern that affects one in every eight children (Matthews & Collin-Vezina, 2016). Another issue that has also been identified is on child labor, which has been indicated to affect children all over the world where it is approximated that there are about 186 million child laborers from all over the world (Srivastava, 2011). The development of ICT has opened new avenues for exploitation of children rights, and which is the one area where formulated national and international policies rarely address the children needs (Sonia & Bulger, 2014). It can, therefore, be established that children’s’ rights are an important societal problem that needs to be addressed.
Perspectives from Different Disciplines and Population
One perspective on the issue of children’s rights can be drawn from the issues of child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse has been known to cause a big challenge to public health, social justice, human rights, gender equality, and science. Child sexual abuse leads to abuse of children’s right and causing subsequent sexual victimization, unwanted pregnancy, and HIV infection. This has seen international and national communities acknowledge the urgent need for governments and policymakers to come up with initiatives to prevent, identify, and respond to the incidences of child sexual abuse. This has also been reflected in the United Nation’s SDGs on human development efforts with two targets – identifying that child abuse is a critical barrier to health and one that eliminates forms of violence against women and girls including sexual exploitation. Attempts to respond to these challenges on children’s’ rights in low- and middle-income countries and developed nations include factors experienced at the individual, institutional, and societal levels. This has been known to influence its perpetration, concealment, and continuance (Matthews & Collin-Vezina, 2016).
Another perspective on the issue of children rights as a societal problem is on child labor. It is estimated that all over the world, there are over 186 million children engaged in child labor. Child labor is a violation of human rights and is against the International Labor Organization. The situation in the developing world is worse where about one-third of children do not complete at least four years of education (Srivastava, 2011). Child labor is a form of work that deprives the children of their childhood, their potential, and dignity. This is detrimental to their physical, mental, and social development. Child labor is a violation of the children’s rights as it hinders their ability to attend school, destroys their personal development, and subjects the children to hazardous occupations. Child labor is common in industries such as agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, livestock, and forestry. More than 90% of children engaged in child labor are located in the developing countries with 61% being in Asia, 32% in African, and 7% in Latin America (Srivastava, 2011).
Another perspective of considering the issue of children rights is on child poverty. It is estimated that more than 10 million children in developing countries die annually mainly from causes that could have been avoided (Pemberton, Gordon, Nandy Pantazis, Townsend, 2007). The World Health Organization indicates that that about 7 out of every 10 childhood deaths in these developing countries are due to five main causes which include malnutrition, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, and malaria. The World Health Organization observes that extreme poverty is among the main causes of death. It thereby highlights that by eradicating the extreme poverty, it is possible to improve global child survival rates (Pemberton et al., 2007).
Another perspective on the children’s rights is from across the digital ICT. It has been noticed that children social environment has shifted from being physical to digital. This is bound to affect different aspects of their lives. It is then noticed that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was formed in the pre-digital era and may not directly point out to some rights that needed to be upheld across the digital platform. It is therefore important to consider how the Convention of Rights of the Child is adopted in the digital, convergent, and networked environment. It is observed that the ever dynamic, highly complex, and transnational nature of socio-technological infrastructures pose challenges to the national policy makers (Sonia & Bulger, 2014). The internet is blind to age and, thus, requires adequate structures to promote and uphold the rights of the children.
The proposed solution to the societal problem on the children rights is to revise the UN Convention on the Rights of Child. The UNCRC is one of the strong legal statements that indicate that children have a full rights entitlement just like the adults. The UNCRC has been a major source of guidance on children right in various countries apart from Somalia and the U.S. where it had not been adopted. The proposed updates on the UNCRC include an expansion to ensure that the policy framework adequately covers the digital environment as this has been embedded as a way of life, which was not the case in 1989 when the UNCHR was being adopted. The proposed solution further suggests that from the rights highlighted in the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, be drawn targets and indicators with specified timelines.
The digital environment affects the lives of the children in many aspects such as the creation of opportunities and risks for the enjoyment of human rights. In light of this, governments are encouraged to review the legislation, policies, and practices to address effectively and adequately the rights of the child. It can be noted that the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the release of the World Wide Web (www) all took place in 1989. The www has been a major determinant in the digital environment and has grown significantly. It is clear to many organizations and government that there is a need to develop an influential policy related to children rights over the internet (Livingstone & Amanda, 2017).
The three main types of risks on children rights arising from the exposure to the digital environment include content, contact, and conduct risks. Content risks arise from the situation where the child is exposed to inappropriate material and content such as sexual materials, pornographic, and violence. The contact risks arise from incidence where children engage in risky communication such as radicalization or soliciting children for a sexual purpose. The conduct risk entails the specific action by the child leading to risky content or contacts. These risks may lead to behaviors that are in violation of the children rights as violence, sexual abuse, and commercial exploitation (UNICEF, 2017).
The proliferation of the above-mentioned risks is influenced by the social, economic, and political factors. The issues of children rights across the digital media may be highlighted in three types. One, the use of digital media by the children with the child rights focusing on the right to or placing barriers to access. Two, the issue of children rights in the digital environment focusing on the rights of the children while on the online spaces. Three, children’s’ rights in the digital age where the digital media has reshaped the dimensions of the society thereby introducing new prospects on how the children rights can be further enhanced (Livingstone, Lansdown, & Third, 2017).
The UNCRC has earned the universal recognition as the main human rights providing international standards and a yardstick for the attainment of children’s rights. This convention acts as a monitoring system for the countries that have ratified the convention. The Monitoring Committee for the Convention guides governments to gain a better understanding, enable the implementation, and monitoring of the convention in. This offers a reference point for developing the child right indicators (Vaghri, Arkadas, Kruse, & Hertzman, 2011). The proposed solution aims at making these indicators formal and with specific timelines.
The ethical issues related to the children’s rights pose challenges to the promotion of the children rights across the digital environment. Among the first ethical challenges results from the fact that the internet is age-blind. In the digital media, it is always a challenge to determine whether the user is a child. This leads to a situation where children are accorded the treatment as adults while in the online space, making it difficult to put in place effective protective measure to protect the needs and interests of the children. Another issue arises from the nature of online operations that are shifting to become more opaque. The digital environment is being operated through automated algorithms, which tend to generalize the use characteristics and consequences thereby making it difficult to adjust accordingly to the children’s rights. Another ethical challenge arises from the fact that the internet is transnational making it difficult to control and govern under the national laws.
Children’s rights have been in the spotlight with different stakeholder being involved. The United Nations has been at the forefront of enhancing Children’s rights, thereby highlighting its importance as a global societal problem. The most vocal policy on Children’s right is the United Nations General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children’s rights have been prescribed in different international and local legal instruments. These offer special consideration to the children based on their unique and vulnerable status. One perspective that on the issue of children’s’ rights can be drawn from the issues of child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse has been known to cause a big challenge to public health, social justice, human rights, gender equality, and science. Another perspective on the issue of children’s rights as a societal problem is on child labor. Another perspective of considering the issue of children’s’ rights is on child poverty. It has been noticed that that the children’s social environment has shifted from being physical to being digital, which forms an important perspective to consider the issue of the societal issue of children’s right. The proposed solution to the societal problem on the children’s’ rights is on revising the UN Convention of Rights of Child to include specific targets and indicators with specified timelines and embed the children’s’ rights in the digital environment.
Barrett, D. (2017). The Child’s Right to Protection from Drugs: Understanding History to Move Forward. Health and human rights, 19(1), 263.
Livingstone, S., Lansdown, G., & Third, A. (2017). The case for a UNCRC general comment on children’s rights and digital media: a report prepared for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner of England, London, LSE Consulting. Children’s Commissioner. Retrieved from https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Case-for-general-comment-on-digital-media.pdf
Livingstone, S., & Third, A. (2017). Children and young people’s rights in the digital age: An emerging agenda. New Media & Society, 19(5), 657-670.
Livingstone, S., & Bulger, M. (2014). A global research agenda for children’s rights in the digital age. Journal of Children and Media, 8(4), 317-335.
Mathews, B., & Collin-Vézina, D. (2016). Child sexual abuse: Raising awareness and empathy is essential to promote new public health responses. Journal of public health policy, 37(3), 304-314.
Pemberton, S., Gordon, D., Nandy, S., Pantazis, C., & Townsend, P. (2007). Child rights and child poverty: Can the international framework of children’s rights be used to improve child survival rates?. PLoS Medicine, 4(10), e307.
Srivastava, K. (2011). Child labour issues and challenges. Industrial psychiatry journal, 20(1), 1.
Unicef. (2017). The state of the world’s children 2012: children in a digital world. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/eapro/SOWC_2017_ENG_EMBARGOED.pdfVaghri, Z., Arkadas, A., Kruse, S., & Hertzman, C. (2011). CRC General Comment 7 Indicators Framework: A tool for monitoring the implementation of child rights in early childhood. Journal of Human Rights, 10(2), 178-188.
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