UN Committee Calls for Internet Channels for Child Sexting

By | April 9, 2021

NEW YORK, April 9 (C-Fam) Out of more than 7 billion people on the planet, it is likely that no more than a few thousand have ever heard of General Comment No. 25 just issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

It is likely that only a few hundred know the names of the drafters of General Comment No. 25 just issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Yet, General Comment No. 25 purports to tell all governments, all businesses, and, more importantly, all parents how to apply children’s rights when it comes to the internet.

Keep in mind that the general comments issued by such treaty monitoring bodies have no force in law; they are not even enforceable suggestions. But they will be accepted by governments and businesses as legal norms they must impose on parents and their children.

The drafters of the document are concerned that children will come across “untrustworthy information online.” Without a doubt, this is a concern of all. Still, many would consider judging “untrustworthy” is appropriately left to parents and not to governments and businesses. As it is now, social media giants determine that certain viewpoints, usually politically conservative ones, are out of bounds and therefore blocked. On the other hand, tech giants refuse to block hard-core pornography from the eyes of children. Facebook, for instance, is among the most prominent purveyors of child pornography in the world.

One of the subjects that parents may find most alarming is that children have the “right to freedom of expression [including] the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, using any media of their choice.” Most parents in the world would likely object to this notion that children have a right to information of “all kinds” from any source.

The Committee preparing this document asked some children to inform the Committee of their views. These “children reported they valued searching online for information and support relating to health and well-being, including on physical, mental and sexual and reproductive health, puberty, sexuality and conception.” The drafters go on to say, “adolescents especially wanted access to free, confidential, age-appropriate and non-discriminatory mental health and sexual and reproductive health services online.” Previously, the UN has defined “reproductive health services” as including abortion.

The Committee dealt with what is now commonly called “sexting,” where people, including children, send sexually explicit pictures to friends and even strangers through the internet. Sexting can be illegal when done by children, and the Committee wants it made legal. The Committee says, “Child-friendly channels should be created to allow children to seek advice and assistance where it relates to self-generated sexually explicit content.”

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the Committee of “experts” appointed by UN Member States to make suggestions to signatory countries on how to implement the underlying treaty, in this case, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Conservatives, particularly in the United States, have been critical of the treaty for many reasons, including that the treaty treats children as rights bearers utterly separate from their parents.

Almost alone, the United States has never ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.