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Digital Child Rights


Course Description

Children's rights have long been an underexposed subject in law and technology, but this is now changing. This is important for several reasons. Firstly, children are important users of technology: both during their childhood and as future adult users (and designers) of technology. About a third of internet users worldwide are children. However, the Internet has not been developed with children in mind, and this raises all sorts of questions, such as the inherently commercial nature of digital services and products, which raises questions about design that could be harmful or at least unfair, such as dark patterns, for vulnerable users, such as children. Secondly, children have fundamental rights which must be respected when designing and using digital technologies. One of the key principles is the best interest principle in Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC) which states that all activities that have an impact on children should contribute to their development and respect their relevant children's rights. In the EU, this is for instance reflected in the General Data Protection Regulation, which applies to the regulation of all digital services and technologies that are developed and applied. Data protection laws are adopted across the world now. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will possibly this year adopt a new general comment (no. 25) in which data protection is considered a child right as part of their right to privacy in article 16 UNCRC. Another important principle is the right of children to be heard in Article 12 UNCRC, which states, among other things, that the expectations, insights and needs of children of different age groups and according to their evolving capacities must be taken into account in the design and use of digital technologies that have an impact on them. Thirdly, a children's rights approach is relevant for children to ensure that regulation with an impact on children is balanced. Particularly in the case of technological developments, we are quickly seeing a concerted response to protect children by imposing restrictions on them if risks are found or merely perceived to be present. It is, of course, important to protect children from harm, but that should not disproportionately restrict their freedom to develop in all kinds of ways and, above all, to be able to make mistakes. One subject that highlights this dilemma is adolescent sexting, i.e. the sharing of sexually explicit photos or videos. In many countries, sexting falls within the scope of 'child pornography' and is therefore punishable, but the question is justified whether in many cases sexting is not simply part of sexual development.
The course will cover some selected topics that touch on all of these points. The subjects are central to academic research that is carried out within the Center for Law and Digital Technologies (eLaw) at Leiden University.

Course Requirement

Master Degree


The timetable of this course will be available for students in Brightspace


More information on this course is offered in Brightspace


Attendance of at least 80% of the scheduled course lectures is required to pass the course

Assessment Method

Written exam (60%)
Group essay (40%)

Contact information

Programme Coordinator
Ms Patricia Garcia Fernandez
Telephone number: 0031- 71 527 4228

Disclaimer: This course has been updated to the best of our knowledge at the current time of publishing. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the fluctuating changes in lock down regulations all information contained within this course description are subject to change up to 1 September 2021.
Due to the uncertainty of the Covid 19 virus after 1 September 2021, changes to the course description can only be made in the event of strict necessity and only in the circumstances where the interests of the students are not impinged. Should there be a need for any change during the duration of the course, this will be informed to all students on a timely basis and will not be to the prejudice of students. Modifications after 1 September 2021 may only be done with the approval and consent of the Faculty Board”