A. Humphreys, CC BY-ND 2.0(1)

Our work

At the DFC, we are working on exciting new projects that address pressing questions about children’s rights in the digital world. We seek to promote meaningful conversations about how we can best realise these rights. Here you can find out about our upcoming and ongoing projects.


Best interests of the child in the digital environment

The concept of “the best interests of the child,” part of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, is being increasingly used by multiple stakeholders when addressing children’s rights in the digital environment. Yet, it is unclear what stakeholders may mean, and whether there is a common interpretation of the concept’s applicability in the digital world, which constitutes a diversity of platforms and children. To address this, we are working on a short report to provide a succinct data summary of peer-reviewed research about what the “best interests of the child” constitute in different regions, and industry settings and when they can contradict other rights-based concepts meant to protect children. Our report will include further evaluative commentary about how the concept has evolved, to inform advocacy.

You can expect our open-access report by late March.

The DFC research database

There is no single place to find research evidence relating to children’s rights in the digital environment. Many good research sources are paywalled (academic journals) or restricted (university libraries), with data about online life often in the hands of commercial companies. This poses a particular problem of access for child rights advocates, researchers and civil society organisations, especially in the global majority world. Reflecting on this, the DFC is developing a research database – an online, open-access resource, accessible via our website showcasing peer-reviewed research, reports, whistleblower testimonies, key legislation and other relevant material. The research database will encompass the scope of General comment No. 25 and support its implementation. It will be open access, searchable and our contribution to the collective understanding of children’s rights in the digital world.

We are currently in the design and development stage for this project and consulting experts on children's rights globally alongside librarians to bring to life this major DFC project.

The impact of regulation on children’s digital lives

In response to rising concerns over the ineffectiveness of self-regulation, there are growing efforts to regulate big tech, mainly focused on safety in relation to children. While regulations such as the Online Safety Act (UK), the Digital Safety Act (EU), the Age Appropriate Design Code (UK and California) etc., set new precedents and make headlines, we lack good evidence about whether regulation (especially legislation) is effective in protecting children, and whether different types of regulation are more or less effective on different digital services. Therefore, our research project seeks to address what impactful, good regulation looks like as such evidence is needed to advocate future regulatory efforts. We will focus on particular regulations and seek information about changes directly from companies as well as publicly available literature such as testimonies, parliamentary submissions and legal filings. This work will be published as an open-access long-form report, providing key transnational comparisons.

We expect to publish our report in the summer of 2024.

REPHRAIN: Towards a better understanding of global experiences of online child sexual exploitation and abuse

The Digital Futures for Children (DFC) centre is working with researchers at the University of Cambridge, UNICEF, and the University of Oxford to examine measures of online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) in diverse contexts around the world. Find out more.

If you would like to enquire about the progress of specific projects or have information to share, you can contact us.