Young activist, tech future

Children must be part of creating digital future; young activist takes call to UN

My name is Abril and I am a 17 year old child activist and human rights defender from Argentina. I am part of the Youth group of Amnesty International Argentina. I also volunteer as part of the Youth Agents of Change programme of Ashoka Conosur. I participate as a counsellor in the public ministry of the government of the city of Buenos Aires and am a content creator for UNICEF and part of its youth network Voices of Youth.

Today, on 10 March 2023, I am in Geneva at the United Nations Human Rights Council to mark the Annual Day on the Rights of the Child. This year the focus is on our rights in the digital environment. It is important that the voices and experiences of children and young people are listened to and that we are included in discussions about our rights.

This is why today in the Human Rights Council chamber, Amnesty International gave me their speaking slot so as a child I can speak directly to decision-makers and share my experiences and concerns. I am passionate about the digital rights of children and young people, especially keeping us safe online and protecting our health and well-being in the digital environment.

My hope for the future is that child and youth activists like me are seen as changemakers and are included in spaces like this, and that governments and companies commit to making the digital environment a safe and healthy space for us.

Here is my full statement that I delivered today:

My name is Abril and I am 17 years old. I was born in Argentina, and I am a human rights defender and child participation activist.

When I was invited to speak about children’s and adolescents’ rights in digital environments, I asked myself: what do we look for in a digital environment?

Children and adolescents are looking for a safe, trusted space in which our rights will be respected.

And I thought, well, what do we actually find?

At this point I was confronted with two very unequal situations:

On the one hand, there are many children who don’t even have access to digital environments, either through poverty or because of a lack of infrastructure in their countries.

On the other, those of us who do have access risk suffering harmful situations such as online violence, cyberbullying, gender stereotypes in social media or the disclosure of our personal data and information.

Those who create and shape technologies today do not account for the impact they have and will have on our rights in the future.

What about the privacy and security of a child who fills out an online form without knowing what her data will be used for?

What about the well-being of a child who receives discriminatory Instagram messages about their gender identity before going to bed?

What about the mental health of a girl who looks in the mirror and compares her body to those of the challenges she sees on Tik Tok?

As a young activist at Amnesty International, I know that our participation is essential in the design and regulation of digital spaces. The only way to make them safe and effective for children is if we create and define them together. Adults have an obligation to listen to our ideas and incorporate them into decision-making processes.

The realities of all children must be taken into account.

The time for action is NOW, not only for us but with us at the centre. We have a lot to say, and we want to be part of creating a fairer and safer digital world for everybody.