In Mission Opposites, Agents highlighted three rights they thought were positively impacted by digital technology, and three rights they thought were negatively impacted. The right most commonly reported as being positively impacted by digital technology was the right to access information.
“Information is easily found on the internet.” Belgium, 17
The internet is an incredible source of information. As one Agent said: “[the] internet has nearly all the answers” (France, 13). Digital technology has made getting information quick and easy, and many of you rely on it ー to complete school projects, for example.
In fact, many of you said that digital technology helps to implement your right to education because of the way it facilitates access to information. One Agent from Malaysia pointed out that translation programs such as Google Translate “helps me to understand other languages to expand my knowledge” (Malaysia, 17), while another said that “Internet is a good platform to use in order to expand an individual’s mind capacity and vocab.” (Malaysia, 15).
But having so much information brings other challenges, one problem some of you mentioned was the accuracy of information. For some Agents, digital technology makes it easier to access correct information. But for others, it makes it harder to tell the difference between true and untrue information.
“On the internet and with new technologies in general one can find all sorts of information and not all are true.” France, 14
“Without the Internet, we only get our new information with the newspapers, news on TV and magazines. So with the Internet, it gives me quicker updates and more valid facts.” Malaysia, 17
What do you think? Does easier access mean you get better information? Does too much information make it harder to find what’s correct? In Operation News there is a quick survey about online and offline news information. Fill it in to tell us more!
Let’s get back to your rights. Article 17 of the Convention says that children have the right to get information that is important to their health and wellbeing and that they can understand. This includes information in languages spoken by minority and indigenous children. Article 17 also says that mass media should not promote materials that could harm children.
So there are clearly two sides to this article: the right to access information and the right to be protected from some information. This is where it gets tricky as both aspects can be contradictory, isn’t that right? How can we have better access to information but still be protected from some kinds of information? Having one doesn’t necessarily mean letting go of the other and, in the end, we need both these rights. When asked how the Convention might need updating for the digital age, one Agent said “According to article 17, children have the right to get reliable information from the radio, TV and newspaper. This right could be further improved if the radio stations or televisions reduce their broadcasting of explicit videos with sexual content and vulgar words.” (Malaysia, 17). It seems that how to get the right balance is an interesting question that adults and young people may need to think about more.
So, does digital technology support or contradict article 17? The internet has taken access to information to a whole new level: it is a champion at supporting your right to information in a way that no one imagined when article 17 was written. But today there are regular media debates about children accessing ‘inappropriate’ content online. As we found out in the first phase of RErights, young people themselves are concerned about seeing disturbing content or “learning the harsh realities of the world at a young age” on news sites (USA, 16). At the same time, parental control software or restrictions designed to protect children from accessing inappropriate content ー which some might say is a good way to follow Article 17 ー were also denounced as a breach of your right to access information.
Some better questions might be: Is blocking access the best way to protect children? Are there other ways? When it comes to information, what do you want access to, and protection from? How would you implement article 17? Tell us what you think by posting a comment below.
In the next post, read about how digital technology helps you thrive and become tomorrow’s adults.