World Children’s Day is celebrated every year on 20 November since 1954 when the United Nations created Universal Children’s Day. It aims to promote international togetherness and improve children’s welfare. It also marks the anniversary of the date in 1990 that the UN General Assembly adopted both the Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
With a ‘world day’ for almost everything these days, supporting these awareness raising initiatives can feel like virtue signalling. But for us this particular world day is different, because it links directly into the work
we do at the ODPA.
The Law that we are charged with overseeing, the Data Protection (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2017, gives us very specific legal duties, one of which is to “promote public awareness of risks, rules, safeguards and rights in relation to processing (of personal data), especially in relation to children.”
So, whilst dealing with complaints and handling investigations is always going to be a very important part of our work, we also need to consider how best to fulfil our responsibilities to the children in our islands.
Engaging people in issues around the protection of personal data is not always easy. The challenge is much greater when we start thinking about how to engage children and young people.
This month sees us launch our work on a ‘Children’s Framework
’ which aims to support responsible use of children’s information and the highest standards for the legal and ethical handling of data. We have aligned our activities with relevant areas of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Part of these early steps in the Children’s Framework is going to be consulting with adults and children. It must be the case that those most affected by the issues it raises – those with responsibilities for the handling of children’s data, and children themselves – are involved and have a voice. We have, at the ODPA, long believed that there is very big difference between talking at people and talking with them, especially when it comes to children and young people who are often disenfranchised from these conversations. So we want to play our part in changing that by:
- Empowering young people to make good choices
- Educating them about their rights
- Empowering them to exercise their rights
- Inspiring them to talk with others about these issues
- Inspiring them to be the next generation of digitally skilled citizens, professionals and leaders
Not only does this require appropriate communication methods and tools, but it also requires the right people to use them.
Communication is at the heart of so much of our lives and it is a wonderful and rare gift to be able to stand in front of a group of children and speak to them in a way that they understand, about things that mean something to them, and with a message that stays with them. Our schools outreach officer, Kirsty Bougourd, has that gift.
Just recently, Kirsty has written a lovely children’s book, Warro, which forms part of the Bijou Seeds programme . We have been thrilled to be able to give one of these books to every Year 4 pupil in the Bailiwick.
As lovely as the book is in its own right, it does have a very serious side.We cannot use the same methods and approaches when talking about data to children, as we do with adults. Neither must we exclude or frighten them.
The world they are growing up in, and are having to navigate, is driven by technology and data. The impacts are real, but so is the opportunity to build a shared vision of our world where those technologies and that data are used to support human values, not exploit human beings.
“History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.” Nelson Mandela