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.
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. We will continue to work with government and the Information Commissioner to design an effective digital resilience curriculum and enforce children’s rights online including the right to be informed through clear terms and conditions, to be protected from location tracking, and to know how their data is used. In Growing Up Digital we called for digital citizenship to become obligatory in every school, led as far as possible not by teachers, but by older children. We are plesaed that some of our proposals are being introduced by the Government and that our focus on ‘digital resilience’ rather than ‘online safety’ is becoming a far more common concept than it was – used widely by Ministers, Departments and other organisations. The DCMS ‘Internet Safety Strategy’ Green Paper, published last year, also made a commitment to improving children’s digital education, including consulting on a school curricula that would meet some of the challenges the internet and social media brings. There is recognition too that peer-to-peer support should be integrated into teaching around digital citizenship, with a teacher in every school responsible for this area alongside a group of student mentors.
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.
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.