“Child Online Protection Technologies.” Rostelecom identified 10 online risks of the future

“Child Online Protection Technologies.” Rostelecom identified 10 online risks of the future

Today, various types of psychological abuse, such as cyberbullying, stalking, grooming and sexual harassment, pose a great danger to children and teenagers online. Existing technological solutions offer good protection from basic personal attacks but are not sufficiently effective when attackers understand the principles of the solutions’ operation. The risks related to informational and marketing pressure and dissemination of misleading information and content that is not suitable for minor users are underestimated.

Experts highlighted 23 main risks for children and teenagers online, assessing in each case the degree of danger and the adequacy of protection technologies. The analysis of existing risks and various trends resulting from technological, social, and geopolitical changes allowed the experts to identify ten areas that will be susceptible to creating online risks for minors in the near future.

·      Influencers, their growing power, and virtualization

Opinion leaders shape values that can be used for personal gain. Ideal proportions and living conditions of semi-virtual and virtual influencers negatively affect children’s self-esteem.

·      Interactions between adults and children in VR and the metaverse

Children can use adult avatars, and vice versa. The anonymity of VR applications creates favorable conditions for cyberbullying, sexual harassment, and other dangerous scenarios.

·      Artificial intelligence as a criminal tool

Technology can be used to imitate appearance, voice, facial expressions, to bypass biometric identification or create incriminating documents.

·      Artificial intelligence as part of the upbringing process

In 2018, there was a wide public discussion of the precedent in which a baby’s first word was the name of a smart device. Children can misunderstand the role of artificial intelligence and get attached to robots, which increases the risk of corporations’ intrusion into the lives of families.

·      Distance forms of child exploitation

Child labor exploitation is poorly regulated online; children can be used for free content generation or get drawn into unlawful labor practices.

·      Digital footprint and biometric data

Children are not aware of the kinds of online statements that can affect their future; digital footprints often make children perfect targets for stalkers.

·      Transformation of children’s social skills

The process of social field exploration has changed, and children who rely more highly on the Internet can face challenges in socializing offline. 

·      Popularization of “grey areas”

The desire to circumvent the ban on viewing resources that have restricted access drives people to master grey-area technologies and even join hacker groups.

·      Information warfare escalation

Amid information warfare, children take hyped narratives on faith, man the barricades and can get hit by sanctions of the state, corporations, and unofficial communities.

·      Digital divide intensification

Tech giants shape political environment and employ harsh measures against unwelcome groups. The digital divide increases inequality between different regions and, in certain countries, basically restricts children’s civil rights.

On the basis of the findings of the study, the Alliance for the Protection of Children in the Digital Environment prepared recommendations for the government, educational institutions, IT developers, business enterprises, parents, nonprofit organizations, and social entrepreneurs. Sufficient degree of each stakeholder’s freedom of taking the initiative and creating the space of shared responsibility for the result were named as the main conditions for the implementation of recommendations.

The “Child Online Protection Technologies” research study was carried out from October 2021 to March 2022. The expert group featured 24 specialists in the field of Internet research, cybersecurity, and IT. The findings were based on the analysis of over 500 literary sources and over 300 patents, companies, and IT solutions for child online protection.

The full text of the “Child Online Protection Technologies” study is available on the website of Rostelecom: https://www.company.rt.ru/social/kids-safety/.