Growing Up Digital: Five Fundamental Rights for Youth in the Online World

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Given that children now spend much of their time playing and socializing online, a recent UK House of Lords report deemed online safety as important as reading and writing. The 5Rights Civil Society Initiative, founded by House of Lords member Beeban Kidron, is taking a rights-based approach that looks at internet safety and literacy for young people. With this unique framework of five fundamental rights, youth are empowered to access the digital world creatively, knowledgeably, and fearlessly.

While headlines concentrate on stranger danger and unsuitable content, the structure of the digital world remains unchallenged. A report presented to the Scottish Government finds that more than half (59%) of young people have experienced or know someone who has been effected by cyberbullying. Two in five (41%) young people don’t know what their rights are, and if they are being observed in the digital world. “As young people increasingly spend time seamlessly going on and off line, they need their own critical intelligence, understanding of the technology, strategies for managing their reputation and identity, tools to manage their usage, and clear understanding of likely social outcomes,” Kidron states.

In several UK cities, the 5Rights Initiative addressed the diversity of these needs in discussions with youth between the ages of 12 and 17 in a project called The Internet on Our Own Terms.  In broadening the issue beyond “fear and risk”, young people became the policy-makers and voices of their own stories—vs. “expert adults.” Collectively, they came up with five rights that they could put their trust in, and would lead to a safer, happier, and more transparent online world:

1) The right to remove or easily edit all created content, 2) The right to know who is holding their information and whether it is being copied or traded, 3) The right to safety and support from illegal practices and upsetting scenarios online, 4) The right to informed and conscious choices to reach into creative places online, yet have the capacity and support to easily disengage, and 5) The right to digital literacy—skills to use, create, and critique digital technologies, and tools to negotiate changing social norms.

Currently, the 5Rights is gaining political and legislative support to deliver these rights to schools, politicians, and policy makers in the UK and beyond. Children should be taught the tools to navigate the digital world with resilience, information, and power. The internet can be a place where youth become informed citizens not just users, and open enough to be self-expressive yet less susceptible to having their personal information captured and monetized by companies.

The Guardian and the Independent are the only news sources that have covered the 5Rights Civil Society Initiative. Despite the gaining momentum of 5Rights in organizations like the United Nations and the UK Parliament, there is no corporate media coverage on this story.


Elvira Perez Vallejos and Ansgar Koene, “We Asked Young People What They Want from the Internet of the Future – Here’s What They Said.” The Independent, April 1, 2017.

Together: Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, “Young Scots Reveal Challenges to Their Rights Online.” June 13, 2017.

5Rights Youth Commission Final Report to the Scottish Government, “Our Rights: How Scotland Can Realize the Rights of Children and Young People in the Digital World.” Young Scot, May 2017.

Student Researcher: Amber Yang (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator:
Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)