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Children's Rights And Digital Technologies


Admission requirement

Master degree.

Course information

In 1989, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted and has over the years been endorsed by almost every country in the world – only the United States is not yet a party to this treaty. Since then a lot of water has gone under the bridge and the treaty has quickly gained significance in many ways. Even though, unfortunately, too many children still live underprivileged or deplorable lives, child rights are recognized now more than ever and children are increasingly given a voice in articulating their rights and freedoms. However, the Treaty is also criticized for a number of reasons, including the fact that the world has changed considerably since the date of its adoption. Despite its relatively abstract wording that arguably stands the test of time, demands for modernization of the Convention can be heard and a need for re-interpretation of rights in light of novel developments rises. One of such domains in which the CRC, including one of the Optional Protocols addressing children’s sexual exploitation and abuse, as yet has been deliberated only minimally is in the area of emerging digital technologies. Children’s offline and online worlds are nowadays becoming increasingly merged and all across the world the relevance of digital technologies in children’s lives is growing exponentially. Digital technologies provide children with ample opportunities for fun, hanging out, social interaction, personal and cognitive development, et cetera; they can, however, also pose risks to them and harm, particularly, vulnerable children. Children’s rights are specifically important in navigating between three distinctive paradigms put forward by the CRC, i.e. protection, empowerment, and emancipation and participation of children, in order to adequately address opportunities, risks, and harms. When it comes to evolving digital technologies there is a tendency towards moral panics (or technopanics for that matter) and a culture of fear, e.g. in cases of cyber-harassment and online sexual abuse, which can result in overly restricting children’s freedoms. At the same time, the CRC’s Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography requires governments to take legal action in order to adequately protect children online. Moreover, ethical issues of online consumerism and online privacy come up that require an academic and societal debate in light of children’s rights. More generally, it is important to determine how children’s rights play out in the digital environment or an environment in which offline and online are increasingly intertwined.

This course will take a multi-disciplinary perspective on the impact of digital technologies on the lives of children, taking insights from e.g. sociology and communications science to understand the changes technologies bring to children’s lives and how children deal with these changes, as well as to reflect on how these changes impact on their fundamental rights as laid down in the CRC. It will provide students with an introduction into the CRC and current debates on children's rights to set the stage for a more in-depth analysis of children's rights in light of digital technologies. It will critically reflect on the role of various children’s rights, such as the rights to personal data protection and to protection against violence and abuse, in both protecting and empowering children. Moreover, it will reflect on ways to involve children themselves in fleshing out digital children’s rights in a more meaningful by taking account of their experiences and perceptions.

Course objectives


  • Students will acquire knowledge on the relation between the CRC framework and regulating emerging digital technologies.

  • Students will acquire knowledge on how international children’s rights law pertains to theories on cyber-regulation and how law dynamically interacts with others modes of regulation, like technological and social regulation.

  • Students will acquire knowledge on the interdisciplinary character of debates in the domains of child rights and digital technologies and the roles of the various relevant disciplines in legal, ethical and social issues that arise in relation to children and digital technologies.

  • Students will acquire meaningful insights on how technology influences societal developments and, thus, challenges the law as well as in the extent to which law can deal with particular social issues.

Academic skills and attitude

  • Students will further develop writing, argumentation and presentation skills by actively participating in classroom debates, systematically researching relevant legal questions, and defending statements, both orally and/or in writing, and by presenting their findings.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:
Knowledge: students that have successfully completed this course will be able to position digital child rights in a theoretical legal, regulatory, and, to a certain extent, interdisciplinary context and have gained comprehensive insights in current problems in light of emerging digital technologies, the role of international children’s rights in dealing with these problems, and how law, in particular children’s rights law, interrelates with other modes of regulation.

Academic skills and attitude: students that have successfully completed this course will be able to analyze socially and theoretically relevant legal questions concerning children, children’s rights and digital technologies; to systematically, coherently and concisely discuss relevant legal issues, both in writing and orally; and to constructively discuss in writing the written work of their fellow students.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and seminars

  • 5 lectures of 4 hours

  • Required preparation by students: study required study materials, formulate and ponder questions and points for discussions, weekly class assignments

Examination method

Exam (60%)
Essay (40 %)
Pecha-kucha presentation (on the findings from the essay) (obligatory/mark: sufficient)

Submission procedures

  • Written assignments must be submitted via Brightspace.

Areas to be tested within the exam The exam will test selected areas of the course in the form of a written exam and an essay.

It will be up to the discretion of the relevant lecturer/examiner to decide on the form of the retake. The retake may consist of a written retake exam, oral retake exam or any other kind of assessment that is deemed appropriate.

All information regarding the course (required and recommended reading, course information and course schedule) will be available on Brightspace.


More information on this course is offered in Brightspace.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

Required and recommended reading will be made available on Brightspace.

Study materials will be available on Brightspace.

Contact information

Co-ordinator: Prof S. van der Hof Work address: Kamerlingh Onnes Building, room A1.55 Email:

Programme Officer: Ms. Esther Uiterweerd Telephone number: 0031- 71 527 4644 E-mail:

Currently these pages are being updated to reflect the courses for 2020 - 2021. Until these pages are fixed as per 1 September 2020 no rights can be claimed from the information which is currently contained within. In addition, due to the Corona (COVID-19) virus the courses may be adjusted. For the latest please check the course page in Brightspace.