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Report for the European ICT Coalition for Children Online

The European ICT Coalition, an organisation bringing together a variety of companies aiming to help younger internet users across Europe to make the most of the online world and deal with any potential challenges and risks, has published a report on the latest trends and recommendations on children’s online experience. The report, entitled “Looking forward: Technological and social change in the lives of European children and young people”, sketches an excellent overview of young users and identifies many of the most important risks and challenges that children face online.

Among the key findings:

  • Parents of younger children struggle with identifying positive or educational content and
    services and with avoiding inappropriate or unsafe material.
  • Older children and parents struggle with the amount of time they each spend online and
    want tools and support to help ensure this time is well spent.
  • Parents and young people are both excited about and skeptical of the Internet of Things, especially in relation to impact on their physical health, privacy and relationships.
  • While parents and young people value the ease with which they can communicate using digital
    technologies, the ability to be constantly in touch also creates new pressures and anxieties (a pressure to be always connected or missing out if not).
  • Young people find ways of managing when they have difficult experiences online, but rarely do
    they turn to parents, teachers or industry (reporting harmful content for example).
  • The industry has been proactive in providing tools and services to help support child safety online, but their uptake and impact is far from clear.
  • Only a minority of children are engaging in creative digital opportunities, like producing their own content. In other words, children are mostly passive consumers as opposed to active contributors.

Among the recommendations put forth, we find:

  • The necessity to make available more suitable tools for parents/children, especially tools allowing for a staged autonomy for children, where they can gradually be exposed to the online world, in accordance with their development, and also tools allowing for more granularity in terms of time management and accommodate for active parental mediation rather than control.
  • A call on the industry to develop measure to avoid monetizing or misusing children’s personal data, and heightened oversight measures must be implemented for any devices, tools, platforms or services that are used by children.
  • A call on the industry to enhance a variety of tools and services like reporting tools, moderation, privacy and security across the board.

Some shortcomings of the report include:

  • The relative absence from key findings and recommendations of issues related to advertising and business models relying on processing user data. The report mentions several key issues such as unboxing videos and other considerations around advertising but these findings are not reflected in the key findings and recommendations section.
  • A near absent set of recommendations for policy makers, focusing on extending training for teachers, enhance resources for parents via NGOs and other organisations, and cooperate with the industry more (in short, self-regulation).

All in all, the report, if read extensively, provides great insight into the current challenges and risks faced by children online, however, the recommendations and future considerations fall short of addressing the challenges and risks identified.

For more information, consult the full report here.

Or contact Martin Schmalzried: mschmalzried@coface-eu.org