By: Purnima Chander

Now, more than ever there has been an outburst of children in the digital world.  With the present pandemic, it is undeniable that technology has fastened the growth process of children and is significantly contributing to their cognitive development.  Whether it be through iPad, videogames or simply YouTube and social outlets, children are quickly being exposed to a world in which the possibilities are endless.  Nonetheless, this outburst and reliance on technology is proving to cause severe consequences and infringements on the rights of children.  Since 2014, the impact of social media on children’s rights has become a key issue in the global realm (Livingstone 2017).

The loss of privacy is a direct consequence of the digital world. Privacy, is a much-needed vehicle of intimacy representing the boundaries of our social environment and is vital for the safety and security of the person, for self-development and for self-determination (Korajlija 2020).  The absence of privacy exposes children to sexual and commercial exploitation, irreversible damage to their reputations, cyberbullying and surveillance (Lievens 2010, p.61).  In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, it was noted that more than 50 % of parents were concerned about their children being exposed to online predators, inappropriate content, bullying and harassment (Auxier et al, 2020).  More than 46% also reported that their minor children aged 11 and younger came across inappropriate videos on YouTube (Auxier et al, 2020).

Although there is a main legislation in Canada representing privacy legislation, there is still no act that directly protects the privacy of young people online. PIPEDA which stands for the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, is a Canadian federal legislation that applies to all “private-sector organizations that collect, use, or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activity.” There is no differentiation between adults and children within this legislation. Nonetheless, as the legislation was completely quiet in terms of privacy rights of children, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada provided that parents as a general rule, are to consent for children below the age of 13.  What this Act fails to encompass however, is the information that is collected indirectly.

In order to ensure child privacy online, we must place emphasis on “privacy and data security, unsafe online interactions, and unsafe or inappropriate content” (Zon et al 2020).

Privacy for children requires special attention as it is crucial for development.  With the new digital world, the experiences of children are simply a click away.  The constant and extensive sharing of pictures, activities, videos by parents, friends and the children themselves widens the scope of bullying, irreparable harm of reputation and sexual exploitation. 

“Sharenting”, the sharing of children pictures and information by parents and family members also takes away from the privacy of children and displays information without the consent of the child. A focus study representing the age group 12-14 disclosed that the pictures shared through sharenting caused the children a certain amount of embarrassment and increased the tension of bullying.  In addition, a picture shared on the internet with family and friends does not provide the same security as a picture shared though a physical picture album.  Nearly 50 percent of pictures found on pedophilia websites are retrieved from a parent’s innocent social media blog. 

In this regard, several different actors such as teachers, caregivers, parents, pubic authorities all play a role in assuming the responsibility for protecting minors from harmful material. 

Under Article 16 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to privacy. Under Article 36, they have the right to be protected from any kind of exploitation. As the future of children lies in the hands of the digital world, it is vital that the government of Canada implements an act specifically concerning children and online privacy. With no mandatory standards, the only precaution put in place appears to be a checkbox indicating whether you have parental consent and are above the age of 13. For reference, Canada may also peak into the COPPA model implemented by the U.S. This act specifically deals with children protection online and implements the strictest guidelines.  Using this model as framework, Canada should also adopt a similar legislation where the needs, interests and protection of the children is the main focus. 


Auxier, Brooke & al., “Parenting Children in the Age of Screens” (28-07-2020), online: Internet & Technology <>.

Korajlija, Andrea, “An Unfair Game of Virtual Hide-and-Go-Seek: The Passive Collection of Children’s Information Online” (15-05-2020), online (pdf): University of Ottawa < (PDF, 329.07 KB)>.

Lievens, Eva, Protecting Children in the Digital Era: The Use of Alternative Regulatory Instrument (Leiden, Boston: Marthinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2010)

Livingstone, Sonia, “Digital media challenge children’s rights around the world: The case for a General Comment on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child” (28-06-2017), online: London School of Economics and Political Science <>

Zon, Noah & al., “Children’s safety and Privacy in the Digital Age” (05-2020), online (pdf): Standards Research < (PDF, 1.75 MB)>