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, and therefore concern cutting edge knowledge in the field of children's rights and digital technologies.
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.
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
Essay (40 %)
Pecha-kucha presentation (on the findings from the essay) (obligatory/mark: sufficient)
In-class participation (obligatory/mark: sufficient)
- 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.
Obligatory course materials
Required and recommended reading will be made available on Brightspace.
Study materials will be available on Brightspace.
Co-ordinator: Prof S. van der Hof
Work address: Kamerlingh Onnes Building, room A1.55
Ms. Esther Uiterweerd
Telephone number: 0031- 71 527 4644
Currently these pages are being updated to reflect the courses for 2022 - 2023. Until these pages are fixed as per 1 September 2022 no rights can be claimed from the information which is currently contained within.
Should there be any future changes of the Covid 19 virus which may impinge our teaching and assessment, these could necessitate modification of the course descriptions after 1 September. This will only happen in the event of strict necessity and the interests of the students will be taken into account. Should there be a need for any change during the course, this will be informed to all students on a timely basis. Modifications after 1 September 2022 may only be done with the approval and consent of the Faculty Board and Programme Director.