by Jutta Croll, Katharina Kunze, Stiftung Digitale Chancen
At the first and second Internet Governance Forums, there was a general view that the IGF needed to maintain an overall development orientation. Capacity building was the most frequently mentioned issue in the public consultations and was also referred to in several of the contributions during the meeting. Another frequently mentioned theme was rights and the Internet.
With the Internet developing fast and getting maturer issues of safety and security in general became more and more important over the years. In Hyderabad 2008 at least one fifth of the workshops and panel sessions were dedicated to these topics, while many of them focused on children and youths. In Rio 2007 the child online advocates started campaigning for their objectives. Now at the third Internet Governance Forum, child online safety has become a very strong issue.The various stakeholders from different countries and also from different areas like business, government and civil society were involved in fruitful discussions about technologies to support parents and young people surfing the net safely. More often media education was mentioned as an appropriate means to ensure children's online safety and prepare them for an empowered start into the Information Society.
Thus this year's IGF provided for a great platform to ensure that the Youth Protection Roundtable Guidelines are up-to-date when published on April 03 next year. For example in the workshop 'Protection of personal data and privacy in the Information Society' it was mentioned that at the end of the day only policies of the service providers could ensure that children are neither addressed by inappropriate advertisement nor forced to give away private data.
Private data were also a topic in the workshop 'Dignity, security and privacy of children on the Internet: Applying International law'. There it was discussed whether it might be helpful to ensure parents' attendance for the set up of their children's profile on social networking sites while it was also mentioned that thus the privacy of children's might be infringed. With regard to this problem a differentiation of age groups seems to be appropriate. Younger children might need more guidance to understand the consequences of their online conduct than older ones. But also it is necessary to educate the parents as well because especially in regard to the technological functionalities mostly the children are much more acquainted with computer and Internet than their parents.
Also it was mentioned in these workshops that for the service providers it is the
1 billion dollar question to know if the users are fair-minded in regard to their age.
In Web 2.0 one can never know whether the person is as old or as young as it pretends to be. The Youth Protection Roundtable Guidelines will account for various supportive technologies to improve children's online safety. They are based on the assumption that children are protected best when empowered by digital literacy but also supported by appropriate technical tools. We are looking forward to present best practice examples of the implementation of the Guidelines at the next IGF in Egypt 2009.