Minors and online sexual acts: a study of legal qualifications and regulatory approaches from a children's rights perspective

01 January 2017 → 31 December 2020
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Information law
children's rights privacy liability technology
Project description

Minors are engaging with technology, such as mobile applications or social networking services, to establish and maintain intimate relationships and develop their sexual identity. This may fall within the scope of children’ freedom of expression and privacy yet may sometimes be part of sexual abuse or cause harm. The proposed research aims to examine the interplay between technology and regulation of a comprehensive range of online sexual acts in which minors are engaged. In a first stage, a typology of minors’online sexual behaviour and acts will be constructed. In a second stage, a two-step analysis of existing legislative provisions will be conducted related to (1) the legal qualification of the acts identified in the typology, and (2) the role and responsibilities of actors that can be legally linked to those acts (minors, adults, industry, government). The final stage will include a conceptualisation of a regulatory approach to minors’online sexual behaviour and acts based on two normative criteria: (1) fundamental rights and (2) children’ rights principles, and an operationalisation which will assess (1) how legislation could be amended and (2) how other regulatory instruments could complement or replace legislation. The proposed research will advance insights into fundamental research questions of (1) how to resolve conflicts between fundamental rights and (2) how to balance autonomy and protection with regard to minors’sexual behaviour and acts.