Protecting and empowering children during the Covid-19 pandemic

Children may be confined, but their rights are not!

Most experts and staff working at the Council of Europe have continued their work in favour of children’s rights from their homes, using technology and new working methods to achieve their mission. This includes reviewing the measures taken by different countries to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and advising on how to mitigate the negative impact they may have on children generally and in vulnerable situations.

This page offers direct access to:

  • Responses to the crisis by Council of Europe bodies,
  • Thematic responses provided by other international organisations and civil society to support children in the digital environment,
  • Responses provided by member States represented on the Lanzarote Committee (LC)



Children can reach the world from home

The global sanitary crisis has brought unprecedented changes in our interactions and routines due to social distancing and confinement. In many countries, only essential businesses have been functioning normally while many adults in institutions and companies have worked from home and children followed their school lessons online. Families, communities, businesses and governments have learned heavily on internet, digital technology and social media to continue day-to-day activities and also considerably expanded their use for entertainment.

ICTs have allowed children to continue their education and to acquire new skills; to access information and to seek advice and support if they are worried; to play and keep in touch with their peers and loved ones. Screens have helped many children to cope with the confinement and continue to do so in progressive deconfinement, but they are also exposing them to risks. Guidance on some of these challenges provided by different institutions organisations and media can be found under the following headers.

Talking to Children about Covid-19

Children have many questions and concerns and it is important for parents and carers to respond in the right way.

Adults, as well as children, may struggle to understand or to put things into context, with omnipresent information about this crisis.

  • Listen to children and help them to express their concerns
  • Speak plain and clear language, based on information that your government has provided you with; steer away from fake news
  • Help them understand the rules of washing their hands, keeping a distance, respecting the rules and try to make also fun
  • Make sure that they have understood your messages
  • Try to keep them occupied with things that they like to do as a family

Further resources:

Parenting in times of Corona

Staying confined as a family during the Covid-19 crisis has been a real challenge for families. Different organisations have compiled very useful advice on how to make this a positive experience for all, and how parents can interact constructively with their children, stay positive, manage stress and support their children in filling their time with meaningful and healthy activities. They stay valid way beyond the crisis.

Further resources:

Supporting teenagers during the period of confinement

Caring for teenagers during a period of confinement can be just as challenging as caring for smaller children. The teenage years are often the period of one’s life where social distancing from parents is part of seeking autonomy. Teenagers need space to be able to isolate themselves, exchange with their peers online, as they also need support to be able to pursue their schooling. Responding to all these needs likewise has been a true challenge during the confinement. During progressive deconfinement and beyond, make sure you respect your adolescents’ privacy, are mindful to listen to their concerns, try to give them attention and quality time to express themselves and their concerns.

Further resources:

Screen time during the crisis

How to deal with authorised screen times when children have to spend a few hours doing homework and would then wish to have leisure/social activities online too?

Much of the school activities, leisure/social activities, as well as time with friends and family outside the so called “nuclear family” have transitioned online during the Covid-19 crisis. Under these conditions, parents and caregivers had to shift their pre-existing expectations and plans around screen time. This was an opportunity to schedule what is necessary for schoolwork, while perhaps thinking “outside the box” to include additional online time for educational leisure activities like virtual tours of zoos or museums or connecting with classmates via online games and networks. Children were not just learning school subjects online, but they could also learn about empathy and kindness while navigating the digital highway.

Further resources:

Finding quality content for children online

Children have been given access to the online world in unprecedented numbers, as parents and teachers were scrambling to bring educational opportunities online. The good news is that many educational resources, platforms and technologies have been created in the past few years, so it is just a question of becoming familiar with the technology, checking the privacy settings and incorporating a new manner of learning into our routines. There are many listings of educational apps and platforms and parents should read the reviews, ask other parents and reach out to the school community for more information on age ratings and appropriateness. Both the Pan European Game Information and Common Sense Media provide ratings for various age groups.

E-learning: mission impossible or opportunity?

Parents and caregivers can promote good learning practices by getting into a routine and setting rules for study: children should try to maintain their regular school hours as much as possible and work in a designated area for ‘school time’, keeping a distance to anything that can distract them (television for example). Parents and caregivers also need to remember that attention-spans vary with age, and whereas older children may be able to work on Power point presentations, the younger ones may prefer interactive cartoons or learning games. For teenagers, this is a great opportunity to grasp what a real-life office experience would be like. Whatever the age of the child, expectations and plans regarding how the online coursework will be achieved should be discussed within the family and adapted as time goes on.

The internet is currently full of many different platforms where educational material is provided for. Public authorities and media in various countries have already provided for online education and support; here are some examples:

Children's online safety in times of social distancing

During the past months, Children no longer had the outlet of playing at school recess or hanging out in the school yard and are not allowed to attend their regular leisure activities, so found themselves deprived of most of their usual social interaction outside the family. In this situation, some children have felt more isolated than others. This in turn may have lead some of them to more daring online behaviour or more adventurous connections.

Both younger children and teenagers have been prone to being more daring and explorative during the confinement period, making them more vulnerable to being targeted and falling victim to grooming, cyberbullying, sextortion and other online risks.

Parents number one tool for digital parenting is dialogue and maintaining regular conversations with children will give parents the chance to intervene when they see that something is off. It is very important that parents and carers keep an open channel of communication and build a solid relationship of trust with their teenagers during a crisis period like the recent one and also in “normal” times.

Further resources :

Children and violence: how to spot the signs and report?

Children confined with their parents, carers, and siblings may have been exposed to an increase of violent behaviour on the part of family members, as many are facing increased pressure and stress in the crisis. It is important to note that corporal punishment is prohibited in a majority of Council of Europe member States. During the period of confinement, children had even less access to professionals to whom they can report physical violence, abuse or even sexual violence. In many cases, teenagers would report incidences to their best friends, so parents should keep an ear out for such information from their child and report incidences as appropriate. On the other hand, an increase was also expected and seen in domestic or intrafamily violence, where most of the victims will be women or children.

In these circumstances (and beyond) it is important that the state and NGOs sectors fully maintain all online services operational to report the occurrence or suspicion of physical or sexual violence.

Further resources:

Other interesting resources


Keeping children safe from child sexual abuse in times of confinement

Following the statement on stepping up protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse in times of the COVID-19 pandemic made early April 2020 by the Lanzarote Committee’s Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson, a call was issued to all State Parties to the Lanzarote Convention, observers on the Committee and other partners to share relevant initiatives taken following the lock-down to ensure protection of children against sexual violence. Subsequently, the Lanzarote Committee’s Bureau asked for more specific information (including relevant data), on the effect of the crisis response on the maintenance of child safeguarding and support measures, the possible creation of new mechanisms, as well as the ways in which children were heard concerning their protection against sexual abuse and exploitation during the crisis and will be heard when it comes to the evaluation of measures.

To enable the sharing of experiences and to join forces in eradicating sexual violence against children at all times, the Lanzarote Committee agreed to publish all relevant information collected in the above exercises online as it was submitted to


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