The UK children’s digital protection code went into effect on Thursday after its one-year transition period expired. The Age Appropriate Design Code (“the Children’s code”) restricts and monitors online services that are provided to children through apps, games, websites, and other digital service platforms.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which protects and advances the rights of children under the age of 18, established the Children’s code to regulate governments and private entities that process UK children’s personal data. The code includes four principles that play an important role in balancing the rights and safety of children. First, the “best interests assessment” urges children’s digital service providers to “actively take into account the child’s best interests as a primary consideration” when influencing children in the digital environment.
Second, the “non-discrimination” right holds that “all children’s rights should be ensured without discrimination of any kind.” Third, the “right to life and development” affirms that children should have the opportunity “to develop in an optimal way: physically, mentally, spiritually, morally, and socially.” Finally, children’s “right to be heard” states that children should express their views, participate in some decision-making processes, and “exert influence over such decisions in accordance with their age and maturity.”
Stephen Bonner, Executive Director of Regulatory Futures and Innovation at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), notes that large social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok have already updated their child privacy and safety measures. Bonner said,
As the first-of-its kind, it’s also having an influence globally. Members of the US Senate and Congress have called on major US tech and gaming companies to voluntarily adopt the standards in the ICO’s code for children in America.
UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham supports the code and says that it aims to create a safe space for children “not by seeking to protect children from the digital world, but by protecting them within it.” Denham also said, “While our code will never replace parental control and guidance, it will help people have greater confidence that their children can safely learn, explore and play online.”