It is time to prioritize the protection of child rights online in the European Union based on the GDPR. Think tank Children & Adolescent Digital Rights Europe (CADRE), an initiative by Ezzev Foundation, provides an outline of a future online infrastructure for children.
The infrastructure presupposes a national federative authentication and validation infrastructure. This infrastructure should allow for an age verification mechanism, leading to age certificates on user devices. Individual users with an underaged certificate on their device will automatically encounter a different online experience compared to users with a not underaged certificate. This experience is to convey children a sense of safety as well as a sense of responsibility, a sense of freedom and a sense of solidarity with other children. The experience is to empower civic qualities in children.
Firstly, users with an underaged certificate on their device will need given or authorised consent by an adult with parental responsibilities. Without this consent communicating and publishing online is impossible for them, as well as using services of apps or sites that process personal user data.
Secondly, users with an underaged certificate on their device will be barred from using adult-only content, products or services.
Thirdly, users with an underaged certificate on their device will be represented by representatives of the online infrastructure for children in cases of conflicts, complaints, appeals, safety issues and/ or legal issues they have with third-party apps or services that offer peer-to-peer user communicating options or process personal user data. This representation is backed up by relevant governmental organisations and NGOs. This means enforceable agreements with these third-party apps worldwide must be in place. Without these agreements, no child may use these apps or sites.
Fourthly, users with an underaged certificate on their device have a simple online access to organisations offering support to youngsters, such as helplines and panic buttons.
Fifthly, users with an underaged certificate on their device may become members of the infrastructure’s advisory board to the infrastructure’s supervisory board and have access to open consultation with relevant political and governmental representatives.
Sixthly, while all online users will have access to best practice education content as created within the European Union and presented in one place in the online infrastructure for children, users with an underaged certificate on their device will have access to the creators of the content and be able to participate in research, experiments, and personalised educational activities.