By: Constanza Gómez Mont, Founder and Principal of C Minds; Claudia Del Pozo, Children´s Digital Rights Project Director at C Minds; and Nicte Cabañas, Communications Coordinator at C Minds.
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that one in three Internet users is under the age of 18, a proportion that could be even higher in countries with low and middle-income economies, such as Mexico.
This implies that in Mexico, the safety, personal data, and integrity of over 30.6 million children could be at risk if appropriate guidelines and protocols for strengthening and implementing online security measures are not followed. Considering that approximately 80% of minors connected to the Internet in the country in 2021, this issue takes on a particular importance.
In this context, the British Embassy and C Minds released a report called "Advancing Children’s Digital Rights in Mexico". It provides insights and opportunities to promote a safer online environment that fosters the further development of children’s civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights.
The report gathers input from 18 Mexican experts that participated in the "Children's Digital Rights" forum in April 2023, which was inaugurated by Senator Josefina Vázquez Mota, President of the Committee on Children's and Adolescents' Rights, and Deputy Ana Lilia Herrera Anzaldo, President of the Committee on Children's and Adolescents' Rights.
"In the case of Mexico, like many other countries around the world, we face a great challenge in how to incentivize and build the foundations for digital civility, and how the rights of children born into this world of networks can find incentives, respect, rather than hate, destruction, and the multitude of cybercrimes that accumulate day after day"
emphasized Senator Josefina Vázquez Mota.
The report addresses the need to establish a strong and effective framework for protecting children in digital environments. For example, the United Kingdom has the "Children's Code" which includes standards for safely managing children and youth data online. As highlighted by Sonia Livingstone, Chair of the UK Digital Futures Commission, in the forum, finding solutions that allow children to fully leverage the online world while mitigating risks is crucial. Considering the value of online resources and opportunities for their learning, growth, and development, Mexico would benefit from a similar tool to that of the United Kingdom and other advanced countries in this field to address security and privacy challenges.
In addition to incorporating the perspective of children, the report contains 11 recommendations for public policy aimed at establishing a robust and effective framework for protecting children in digital environments, promoting their well-being and online security. The recommendations include the need to promote comprehensive digital education that encourages responsible and safe use of the Internet and to actively involve parents and guardians in protecting their children online.
However, as pointed out by Angélica Contreras, Founder of Cultivando Género, a Mexican civil society organization:
"it is important to take back the pressure and responsibility of a safe Internet experience from children, adolescents, their mothers and fathers, and return it to the State and companies".
The industry is also responding to this need: Google has disabled ads for individuals under 18, and TikTok has set profiles for users under 18 to private by default. Snapchat, Instagram, and Epic Games are enhancing parental controls, while Epic has shifted its approach regarding users under 13, and Meta is developing new age-verification systems to improve the identification of underage accounts and appropriate content.
"Now more than ever, considering the sudden digitization of the lives of children driven by the pandemic, rethinking and strengthening their online protection must become a priority for all sectors"
emphasized Claudia Del Pozo, Director of the Children's Digital Rights initiative at C Minds.
It is crucial to reinforce the prioritization of the topic of Digital Rights for Children in Mexico, fostering more initiatives to protect them in their daily online activities. Learning from international best practices and the global evolution of protection perspectives and industry focus is essential.
Constanza Gómez Mont, Founder and Principal of C Minds shares that “in this context, implementing measures that recognize the agency and digital rights of girls and boys, protecting their privacy and security in online and digital realms, and promoting a culture of healthy digital interaction are pressing needs.”
This report represents a valuable resource for all those interested in ensuring a safe and suitable digital environment for the development of Mexican children. Policymakers, civil society organizations, industry stakeholders, and the general public are invited to take action in favor of children's digital rights and to drive measures that strengthen their protection in the digital world.
The complete report and further details about the recommendations can be found at https://cminds.co/ddi