Young people present proposals to safeguard their digital rights

By Zhang Liying
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 13, 2020
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The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and China's tech giant Tencent co-hosted an online dialogue titled "Digital Youth: My Life, My Future" on Sunday, inviting young Chinese representatives to share proposals to safeguard their digital rights.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and China's tech giant Tencent co-hosted an online dialogue titled “Digital Youth: My Life, My Future”in Beijing, July 12, 2020. [Photo courtesy of UNICEF]

The event aimed to provide a platform for young people to exchange ideas with industry representatives, experts, key influencers, and peers on the risks and opportunities in the digital world.

The rate of internet access among Chinese children and teenagers reached 93.1% in 2019, and more children have started using the internet at an early age, according to a recent survey jointly released by the Department of the Protection of the Rights of Youth under the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China, and the China Internet Network Information Center.

Worryingly, the survey showed that 46% of minors were exposed to inappropriate content online; 42.3% experienced verbal abuse; 20.8% lacked awareness of online privacy protection.

Douglas Noble, the officer in charge of UNICEF China, said, "The COVID-19 outbreak potentially exacerbates the risks faced by children and young people online, as they are spending longer periods of time on the internet than usual."

"We need to listen to young people, who are a key partner in advancing the 2030 Agenda. It's important to expand their access to the best digital technology has to offer, protect them from harm online, and empower them to know how to protect themselves," Noble said.

Lanky Zheng, who is in charge of Tencent's protection system for children and adolescents, said, "On adolescents' healthy use of the internet, we firmly believe that a combination of imposing restrictions to avoid excessive use and empowering them to access good digital content can provide young people with a better online experience.”

Over two weeks, UNICEF China and Tencent received 757 proposals from young people aged 15 to 24 on topics related to adolescents' digital rights. Five young people were selected to present their solutions.

Ji Xiaonan, a 17-year-old student from Beijing, called for a shift from an adult-dominated approach that emphasizes "protection and control" to one that enables adolescents to foster better internet literacy.

"For parent-child interactions around the internet, we should avoid confrontations and push for dialogue. Parents and children should see each other as equals, share ideas, learn together, and make rules about the use of the internet with each other," said Ji. She also proposed that internet literacy be incorporated into school curricula.

Zhao Chen, 19, who is visually impaired, shared a story about the challenges he encountered while surfing online and proposed the use of artificial intelligence and big data to help remove the barriers in the digital world for people with disabilities.

"With the help of a screen reader, a form of assistive technology, I can use a computer in the same way most people can. But the design of many applications presents impassable barriers for those using assistive technology. The best example is the identity verification mechanism that we all frequently encounter," Zhao said.

"I hope that in the near future anyone who has impaired mobility, speech or hearing will have access to all the opportunities that digital technology offers. And no matter how different we are physically, the world will respect us and treat us well," he added.

A panel of experts gave comments on the proposals raised by the youth representatives.

The 90-minute dialogue is part of the "Youth Dialogues on the Future" campaign jointly initiated by the UN in China and Tencent to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. 

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