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Children’s rights: What does the EU do to protect children? 




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Find out about the measures taken by the EU and the European Parliament to protect children and promote their well-being, Society.

Children’ rights and protection as an EU priority

The protection and promotion of children's rights has been a principal objective for the EU and the European Parliament, enshrined in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union and in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Parliament works closely with the European Commission, EU agencies, the Council of Europe and national bodies to safeguard the rights of children and ensure their rights through legislation.

The Parliament has appointed a co-ordinator on children's rights, who acts as a central contact point to monitor and ensure that their rights are included in EU policies and legislation.

With the 2021-2024 EU strategy on child rights adopted in March 2021, the EU aims to combat poverty, social exclusion, discrimination and any kind of intimidation.

The EU has agreed on a European Child Guarantee, which aims to ensure that all children in the EU, including those at risk of poverty, have access to healthcare and education. Each EU country has appointed a child guarantee coordinator, responsible for presenting its national action plans until 2030.

Combatting child labour


As part of its efforts to put an end to forced labour around the world, the EU is working on eradicating child labour. In October 2023, MEPs adopted their position on banning products made by using forced labour from the EU market.

The draft regulation foresees a framework to investigate if companies use forced labour, including child labour, and if proven so, their products will be stopped at  the borders of the EU and those that have already reached the EU market will be withdrawn.

Safer internet

Children use the internet and mobile phones more and more. While this opens new paths to learning and social opportunities, it also poses risks such as cyberbullying, age-inappropriate content and disinformation.

In May 2022, the Commission put forward an updated strategy for a safer and better internet for children and young people.

Preventing child sexual abuse online

Parliament is working on new rules aiming to prevent and stop child sexual abuse online while protecting privacy.

The new rules would mandate providers of hosting and messaging services to assess the risk of their services being misused and take proportionate and effective measures to mitigate the risks, while altogether avoiding mass surveillance.

Combatting human trafficking

Children can be more vulnerable than adults and therefore at greater risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, especially as a result of factors such as poverty, violence and discrimination.

The Commission proposed strengthening existing EU rules for tackling human trafficking. Parliament adopted its position in October 2023, suggesting further steps to protect victims. The position forms the basis for negotiations with EU countries on the final legislative text.

The war in Ukraine highlighted the need for more action to protect children in war zones. In April 2022, Parliament called for greater protection of children fleeing the war in Ukraine. MEPs said that identification and registration are key in order to protect children from the risk of trafficking, illegal adoption and other types of abuse.

Toy safety

Children’s rights as consumers are protected through the EU’s health and consumer policies. Toys, for instance, must comply with safety criteria before they can be sold in the EU.

Parliament has been calling for changes in the Toy Safety Directive, arguing that it does not reflect the latest scientific findings on possible harmful chemicals.

In July 2023, the Commission published a proposal for updates to the rules. The proposal takes into account technological developments and previously unknown safety issues. It sets stricter requirements for chemical substances, which can cause or promote cancer, genetic mutations or damage the reproductive functions. Heavy metals and allergenic fragrances would be banned.

Video games

MEPs adopted a report in January 2023 calling for harmonised EU rules to better protect players, including children, in the online video game sector.

Parliament called for stronger parental control tools and rules on in-game purchase prompts and "gold-farming", which involves selling virtual items for real money.

Given the potential risks posed by video games on mental health, MEPs warn against designing games in ways that could lead to gaming addiction, isolation, and cyberbullying.

Read more on five ways the European Parliament wants to protect online gamers.

Healthy diet habits at school

The EU is supporting a scheme that aims to offer fresh fruit, vegetables and milk to millions of children in schools, ranging from nursery to secondary ones, throughout the EU. The scheme has been in effect since 2017.

In May 2023, Parliament called for more funds for the scheme, less bureaucracy, longer contracts for schools and simpler procurement procedures. MEPs also suggested that EU countries use part of the funding for nutrition education.

More on toy safety and youth policy 

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