Challenges to a safer and more inclusive Internet to children and teens: should we rely so much on consent and informed decisions?

Some key regulations for internet governance are based on consent and information. But how can we guarantee effective consent and informed decisions from people who aren’t fully intellectually and emotionally developed yet? How safe is an Internet based on consent and informed decisions for children and teens?

dictionary page and the word "security" is marked

People consent with social media’s terms of use while creating their accounts; players express their will while buying perks in a game; users permit that sites collect their data. The more we realize the risks of rights violation in the web, the more we rely on conscience, consent and information as a manner to control what may or may not be done on-line. But what if we are dealing with a group of people who aren’t fully intellectually and emotionally developed yet? What about children or teens?

Some regulations protect children and teens by recurring to parents’ consent, like Brazilian General Personal Data Protection Law. This strategy isn’t flawless. First, it’s probably unfeasible that they control everything their children do on the Internet – actually, two in every three Brazilian kids say their parents stay around while they use the Internet, but are not looking at what they are doing. Second, we should consider the generational gap between youth and adults. In 2017, the app reached 7.5 million Brazilian users, in spite of being almost unknown to adults. Parents may consent to uses unfamiliar to them. Third, many adult decisions are influenced by children’s desires – a Brazilian research shows that six in every ten interviewed mothers purchased unnecessary products after their children’s request in 2015.

We shall create an Internet that takes into account the existence of young users. In some cases, we’ll need to create legal or technical locks to protect children and teens rights – for example, prohibiting tracking of data by default in some situations. In other cases, we’ll need to be creative and think about new ways of using the web – for example, adding filters to messenger apps or changing how social platforms show their content (videos or timelines).

In sum, we need to build a virtual environment for children and teens as much as for adults.

This article was first published (12th November 2019) online via and is part of the publication "Critical Voices, Visions and Vectors for Internet Governance". In order to find the sources and literature used for the individual statements, please visit the publication.