As we all know, digital technology ー and social media in particular ー has hugely changed the ways we communicate and who we interact with. Technology makes it easier to connect with our interests, or the groups we identify with.
Some of you recognised – in social media, online communities, forums or chatrooms – an example of how Article 15 of the Convention, on freedom of association, can be better enacted in the digital age: “digital technology helps [the] right to meet, make friends with, and form groups with other people” (Malaysia, 17). This includes connecting with minority groups, which is why some Agents also felt that technology helps implement Article 30 – which is about your right to preserve your own culture, language and religion as a minority.
But again, there were contradictions: Agents also viewed the internet as both a result of and factor in globalisation; and globalisation can present a threat to minority cultures, languages and traditions.
“With help from social media they can have easier contact with others of their group and because of internet they can gather information about the group.” Belgium, 17
“[Technology interferes with] the right to learn and use languages and customs of their family (…) as children will be obsessed with the new trends and they would not follow the family tradition.” Malaysia, 16
The right “to socialise with other people online”, “to make friends through social media” or even “to talk to people who are far away” are just a few examples of how you considered social interaction as being an important right in the digital age. However, while you were clear about the positive impact of technology on ‘freedom of association’ and the right to stay in touch with specific groups, many of you ー often the same Agents who expressed these positive aspects ー also mentioned how technology interferes with social and family relationships.
“[Technology interferes with] social skills as in talking to one another… [because] the more we chat and stay behind this wall called social media the harder it is to connect in the real world, face to face with people. So, the more we connect, the more we disconnect.” Malaysia, 14
“[Technology interferes with] my family relationships… [because] since we all have our own digital technology right now, we don’t talk much as much as we do before.” Malaysia, 17
It’s true that the Convention emphasises the importance of social and family relationships, but is more focused on inclusion and awareness ー the right to know who your parents are, to be raised by family if possible, and to know your culture ー than on socialising.
Your answers made us think: should ‘socialising’ actually be a right? Should more emphasis be put on the importance of social interaction ー both online and offline ー and on learning social skills? And if there is tension between offline and online interaction, does the right to socialise offline need to be protected also? Tell us what you think by posting a comment.
Talking of ‘protection’: does digital technology make it easier or harder to protect children? Find out in our next post about protection from all forms of violence.