Digital

Protecting and empowering children online and holding social media companies to account

Our work on children growing up in the digital age has exposed the gulf between children’s experiences online and the protections and preparation in place for them.

Experiences with online games

We commissioned the research company Revealing Reality to speak to groups of children who play online games like FIFA, Fortnite and Roblox about what they love and what worries them about gaming, both to shine a light on their experiences and to inform policy recommendations.

With 93% of children in the UK playing video games, the Children’s Commissioner is today calling for new rules to tighten up gambling laws and to address the worries children have expressed about how they feel out of control of their spending on online games.

“Gaming the system” shows how children enjoy playing online and how gaming can help them to build strategic, teamwork and creative skills. Children say online gaming extends normal play into the digital landscape and provides a chance to make new friends.

However, it also reveals the drawbacks, in particular highlighting how many children are spending money on ‘in-game’ purchases because they feel they have to in order to keep up with friends or to advance in the game.

Who knows what about me?

Our report looks at how vast amounts of children’s data is collected as children grow up, which often the child and parents are unaware of, and the ways in which it might shape their lives both now and in the future as adults. ‘Who knows what about me?’ reveals how more information is collected and shared about children than ever before – in the screens they watch, the websites and apps they use and the information that is captured by public services.

Digital 5 a day

Having launched our ‘Digital 5 a day’ campaign in 2017 to help children manage their online lives, and designed straightforward terms and conditions for popular social media companies, this year we will explore whether guidelines can be drawn up to help parents keep children emotionally healthy online. We will also extend our campaigning on children’s digital lives to shine a light on the multiple ways in which children’s data is given away, sold and used; and campaign for greater transparency and decent policies to protect children from digital profiling which might negatively affect them in future. We are planning to produce a guide this year for schools and parents to demonstrate the ways in which children’s data is used and sold, and how it may be used in future.

Life in likes

Our report published in January 2018 into the experiences of children aged 8-12 on social media platforms, ‘Life in “likes”’, suggested increasing anxiety over chasing popularity and ‘likes’ and unattainable lifestyles. Older children we consulted for this business plan drew unprompted parallels between social media and their mental health, saying it made them anxious and put them under pressure to conform.