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 very minimally is in the area of emerging digital technologies. In Western societies, children’s offline and online worlds are nowadays completely 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. Child rights are specifically important in navigating between three distinctive paradigms put forward by the CRC, i.e. protection, empowerment and emancipation of children, in order to adequately address opportunities, risks, and harm. 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 cyberharassment 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 child rights. More generally, it is important to determine how child 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 sociology, psychology 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 child rights to set the stage for a more in-depth analysis of child rights in light of digital technologies. It will critically reflect on the role of various child rights, such as the right to privacy and personal data protection, the right to protection against violence and abuse, the right to information and freedom of expression, the right to education and the right to personal development and play, in both protecting and empowering children. Moreover, it will reflect on ways to involve children themselves in fleshing out digital child rights in a more meaningful by taking account of their experiences and perceptions.
Students will acquire extensive knowledge on the CRC framework and its relation to emerging and converging digital technologies.
Students will acquire knowledge on how child rights law pertains to theories on cyber-regulation and how law dynamically interacts with others modes of regulation, like technological, social and private 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 in 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 fundamental child rights in dealing with these problems, and how law, in particular child rights law, interrelates with other modes of regulation (e.g., technological and private regulation).
Academic skills and attitude: students that have successfully completed this course will be able to analyze socially and theoretically relevant legal and ethical questions concerning children, child 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.
The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.
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, small assignments
Pecha-kucha presentation (on the findings from the essay) (obligatory/mark: sufficient)
- Written assignments must be submitted to the course coordinator via BlackBoard’s grade centre
where the grades of individual students will be collated.
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.
BlackBoard consists of the required and recommended reading (literature) for the course, the course
information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions,
which are part of the course.
More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.
Obligatory course materials
Required and recommended literature will be made available on Blackboard and will consist of
international (English-language) academic journal articles; European and international policy
documents; legal texts (laws and case law) and other material that is relevant to the topics of the course
(e.g. videos, websites, instructions on how to write a research paper, and on how to do a peer review
and pecha-kucha presentation).
Recommended course materials
A list of recommended study materials, including academic journal articles from other disciplines than
law, will be made available to students on BlackBoard. These materials may also provide insights on
topics addressed in papers that they are required to write for this course.
Study materials will be available on BlackBoard
Co-ordinator: Prof S. van der Hof
Work address: Kamerlingh Onnes Building, room B3.29
Contact information: e-mail
Telephone number: 071-5278838
Ms. Esther Uiterweerd
Telephone number: 0031- 71 527 4644