I was very pleased to present UnBias’ data at two great recent UK events that addressed children’s safety and wellbeing and children’s rights at: the NSPCC annual conference, ‘How safe are our Children? Growing up online’, 20th-21st June, in London and at the launch of the ‘Children, Rights and Childhood’ event, on 22nd June in Birmingham.
The NSPCC conference was very popular and the audience very diverse. Attendees from NGOs, the government, public policy managers from Google and Facebook, academics, young ambassadors, teachers, consultants, a media personality, a young blogger, staff from the Police department and members of the general public gathered at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, Westminster.
The agenda was busy and rich, but I would like to highlight some of the sessions/topics that drew my attention:
- Sonia Livingstone’s talk: ‘Children’s rights in a digital age’. Sonia addressed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 3 P’s: Protection, Provision and Participation, highlighting that these rights were established before the internet era and hence, not designed with children’s interests as online users in mind. I couldn’t agree more!
In relation to the UNCRN – Article 12 (the right to be listen to, and views to be respected), she pointed out that:
‘Children expect their voices to be heard in formal and informal processes of deliberation wherever their rights in a digital age are at stake, including in relation to internet governance’
Digital literacy is key for children’s development in the online world, and it was great to hear Prof Livingstone addressing children’s digital rights. During the conference, suggestions about the inclusion of Digital Literacy as part of the UK education curriculum (e.g, as part of PSHE) were made by speakers and members of the audience, teachers and young people, which supports recent findings from the UnBias team.
- Alexandra Evans, lawyer member of the 5Rights leadership team and author of the recently published report ‘Disrupted Childhood. The cost of persuasive design’, was part of a great panel: ‘What next to make social networks safer for children?’.
She addressed the idea that it is not positive for children’s development to ‘feed’ their sense of failure. This related to suggestions of children getting flagging signs aimed to online time restrictions. Similar recommendations were also suggested by participants from the CaSMa project previously reported by our team ‘The Internet on Our Own Terms’.
Alexandra also mentioned one popular risk of technology: family conflicts.
‘We are putting technology that is causing conflict on families’.
The relevance and impact of her comments elicited unanimous support from the audience, where everyone clapped when Alexandra referred to Safety by Design and accountability. She mentioned that it’s not children’s responsibility to control the devices, the time, etc., it should be an issue that is addressed by the Government and Industry:
‘The companies should be responsible for the design’.
She also mentioned 5Rights is currently working on an Age-Appropriate Design Code that requires the ICO to set standards in relation to automated and semi-automated profiling.
- Kate Stanley, director of strategy, policy and evidence, launched the NSPCC latest report: ‘How safe are our children?’ suggested to be the most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK up to now.
Looking into young people’s experiences online it indicates, in agreement with our data, that teenagers are showing agency ‘to keep themselves safe online’ (e.g., disabling location settings, tightening privacy settings, reporting ‘disturbing content’, and blocking and removing ‘friends and accounts’).
- Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, shared his views in regard to the societal role ‘big’ tech companies should play, emphasising this should be key for them to help to protect internet users.
“Democratic accountability is important to make changes in governance frameworks […] cannot let the trolls win”.
Safety by Design, was one of the main topics of this event. Matt Hancock mentioned the need for developing algorithms that detect illegal online behaviour like grooming. Robust safety standards and transparency should also be reinforced.
Other topics that drew lots of attention were Cyberbullying, with the contribution of Matt Hussey from The Children Society, Sexting and children exploitation. Other participants included Stacey Solomon (TV personality), bringing her personal experiences as a Mum to campaign against the shallow aspects of social media. She’s been doing short videos to promote how import it is to accept your body image as it is, and how social media can affect children’s confidence.
The Children, Rights and Childhood, expo and launch event, included speakers from Midlands3Cities DTP, Sally Oak Nursery School, Birmingham City Council, The Teddy Trust and UNICEF.
It was a regional event about children’s rights that run within the Children Rights Week. It was very inspiring to meet and hear from key child rights organisations (Martin Russell, UNICEF), educators, and members of the public sector promoting the rights of the child (Laura Foster and Ellie Somme).
I was pleased to attend both events and to engage with participants and speakers sharing UnBias’ findings, while bringing a digital economy angle addressing children’s rights.