On the 2021 edition of Safer Internet Day, DigiGen’s consortium member COFACE Families Europe marks that not every child in Europe has the chance to fully experience a Safer Internet, or any Internet for that matter, because they live in a household that lacks the financial means for a computer or an internet connection. Across Europe, approximately one in twenty children are digitally deprived.
DigiGen‘s Sara Ayllón, Halla Holmarsdottir and Samuel Lado analysed the latest EU-SILC data and found that on average 5.4% of school-aged children (6-16 years) live in households that cannot afford a computer or an internet connection. However, digital deprivation is not evenly spread across Europe. In Romania, the percentage of digitally deprived children is as high as 23,5% while in more northern countries like Norway and Finland it is lower, around 1-1,5%.
With the increased need to be digitally connected, COFACE Families Europe fully supports the recommendations of the DigiGen researchers that the European Commission must include at least one indicator of digital deprivation when it defines if a household is in “severe material deprivation”. This will allow, via EU-SILC, to fully monitor the progress of European societies by the EU and its Member States.
In order to develop adequate policies tackling material deprivation among children we need to acknowledge the undeniable importance of access to a computer and the internet, especially with the ongoing pandemic forcing children to stay at home and engage in distance learning. Without a computer or Internet, there is a significant probability of children falling seriously behind in school and missing out on the opportunities the online world has to offer.
Annemie Drieskens, COFACE President: “We call on the European Commission to take urgent action to reduce the number of digitally deprived children and their families. Clear measures to tackle the digital divide must be included in the action plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.”
The stark reality that many children in Europe still have little or no access emphasises a sense of urgency for policy-makers. Research shows that digital deprivation is more common in families who experience a higher risk of poverty, have low-educated parents, or live in severe material deprivation. Children’s access to technology is influenced by existing socioeconomic, ethnic, geographical and gender inequalities. It is crucial to take children’s rights into consideration as they apply to the digital environment, including their right to access information, the right to education and the right to digital literacy. Without digital access, these rights cannot be achieved.