The purpose of this article is to present the preliminary results of a research project which aspires to identify requirements for risk‐reducing regulatory strategies aspiring to protect children and young people in social networks. It aims to provide an insight into the changing role of law in today's networked society and the innovative regulatory solutions that will be able to deal with the paradigm shift from mass media and passive, vulnerable consumers to media for mass self‐communication and active “prosumers”.
First, the legal impact of social networking sites (SNS) risks for children and young people that have been identified in social science research is assessed, as well as the applicability of existing legal instruments. Second, legal trends in this field and a number of recent (alternative) regulatory initiatives and their implementation are discussed. In a final part, the use of such alternative regulatory instruments and their compliance with the broader legal (human rights) framework are analysed. To conclude, a number of elements for risk‐reducing regulatory strategies for the protection of minors in online social networks are identified.
The first research results point towards the importance of multi‐stakeholder involvement, proportionality of measures, procedural guarantees (such as transparency) and the careful combination of regulatory strategies targeted at illegal as well as harmful conduct and content risks for a balanced protection of minors in social networks.
Although social networks are very popular among young users, the risks that are associated with these networks are not at all or not appropriately addressed by existing legal or regulatory instruments. This article aims to contribute to developing innovative regulatory instruments which are effectively addressing these risks.
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