Keep Our Children Safe in The Digital World

Keep Our Children Safe in The Digital World

There were representatives of the International Chamber of Commerce, ICC Basis, OECD, UNICEF, Amazon, Girlhype Coders Academy and others, who took part in the session on keeping our children safe in the digital world.

This discussion touched upon various aspects of ensuring children's total and equal access to digital media, creating a safe and trustworthy online environment for children, as well as the responsibilities of various stakeholder groups in creating such an environment. Operational skills, a knowledge how to use a computer, or a tab, ability to an effective internet communication, is exactly what we need to develop in our children from a very early age. But educational system cannot manage alone, as teachers are not always highly digitally competent. Therefore, we should attract professionals from business or civil society organizations, who are quite good at digital technologies, thus having an opportunity to implement programs on the improvement of digital competence.

It was suggested to encourage “partnerships” among stakeholders who develop or implement these products, services or projects, involve families, teachers and children themselves, as well as strengthen the business role in developing and implementing these important measures for a safe, trustworthy and attractive online environment for children. The speakers also noted the need to create spaces where not only platforms, but also content, regulation and parents' control would be oriented and safe for children.

Tatyana Kurbatova, analyst of the Center for Global IT Cooperation, noted that companies operating in a digital environment with a children's audience should be responsible for violations and incidents in the network. It should be provided for by law. In order to prevent violations as the leakage of personal data and other things, all market players should be aware of the need to interact with law enforcement institutions and public organizations in order to find up to date means and methods to improve children's safety in the digital world.

Speakers of the “Children's Privacy and EdTech Apps” session pointed out that most educational technologies and platforms collect student data and sell it to data brokers. This edtech industry had been rapidly growing, but the Covid-19 pandemic pushed it even forward, as it forced governments and schools throughout the whole world to adopt remote learning strategies, which were laid upon all students, including children. At the same time, children’s rights standards vocalize their right to full education and their right to having their data handled according to their best interests. At the same time, non-transparent and profitable methods of data handling are explained by the fact that children's right to education is captured by harmful technologies.

The database business models adopted by most digital platforms are "fueled" by the edtech industry in order to sell ads as well as display platforms. This enables children to spend more time online in order to collect more data about them, and as a result, targeted content is more accurate.

For example, a recent study by Human Rights Watch covering 49 most densely populated countries in the world, i.e. most children in the world who had some access to the Internet and devices, showed that 48 out of 49 countries authorized the use of at least one online learning product that followed children online after school hours. The results of the study prove that most of products sent children's personal and confidential information to advertising companies. These companies analyze such data to guess who a child might be, predict what he/she might do next, and, most importantly, how he/she might be influenced.

Tatyana Kurbatova emphasized that providing technological solutions for children so that they can get some content and information, as well as availability of protection means and parental control apps is still an open issue. Incentives for companies/platforms that implement such tools for free in their ecosystem could be such a solution. There is also a need to stimulate technology companies conducting successful R&D in the field of protection hardware, software, new tools and methods for detecting and localizing computer and cybersecurity threats. 

According to discussion results, the participants once more stressed out the need for governments to adopt laws to protect children's data, because a child, parent or teacher is not obliged to know how to protect themselves, but governments should be responsible for how they and business itself handle children's privacy, and, ultimately, protect children in the Internet.