HRH Princess Sofia's speech at Global Child Forum Action Lab 4: Data Mining in the Sandbox: Children’s Safety Online

(The spoken version shall take precedence)

Your Majesties,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to introduce this final Action Lab in Global Child Forum’s Action Lab series – “Data Mining in the Sandbox: Children’s Safety Online”.

Children and the internet have a complex relationship.

On the one hand, the internet provides children and youth with so much that is positive: access to educational opportunities, channels to express themselves, a chance to connect with others.

On the other hand, as we are all aware, life online comes with a lot of risks.

To put this in perspective: 81% of the world’s children now have an online presence – before they turn 2 years old!

And this is just how children start their lives in the digital world. But it continues.

In the US, for example, 95% of teens have (or have access to) a smartphone and 45% of those teens are online an average of nine hours each day.

This represents a massive online footprint.

Furthermore, there is a growing popularity of online services and apps targeting the young. And we can only assume that these services will increase.

This raises questions about how we design online spaces for children. Because the more time that children spend online, the more of their information is being stored, collected, and shared.

This practice of data collection has far-reaching consequences for children’s fundamental rights. And companies have an enormous responsibility to ensure that their practices and policies do not violate children’s privacy.

Some provisions are already in place, which attempt to regulate how online providers can market to children. For instance, a website operator cannot require a child to disclose personal information in order to participate in an online game.

But we need these measures to be enforced and for companies to understand how they can conduct their business responsibly. The generation that built the internet was able to grow up without a digital record of their every purchase and every digital interaction and every digital baby step they ever took. Their past, and privacy, was theirs.

But today’s generation, and the ones to come, will be held accountable to their inescapable online identities.

How companies and current regulations respond to this shift, is one of the fundamental questions of our time.

Thank you.