Remember the Children (Digital Rights in a Digital Age)

What the Kids Say

Someone in the #DigCiz community shared out a research piece about the rights of children in the Digital Age, and I spent some time the other day looking through it. You can, too. The two researchers — Sonia Livingstone and Amanda Third — scoured through research on children to parse out what rights young people have, or don’t have, in the digital world.

As we talk about Digital Citizenship and Civics in the Digital Age, I find it important to remember the balance of adults and children, and how too often young people’s unique concerns and issues of agency get left out of the discussions.

Really, the focus should be all about the kids.

Ideal social media user (company perspective)

Yes, as an adult, I have my own personal concerns about digital platforms (See Doug Belshaw’s post: Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Facebook), and the commercialization of our data, and the privacy decisions made behind closed doors. As adults, we can navigate, react, resist, leave, stay, pause.

Kids have a tougher time, for all sorts of reasons related to developmental growth, social pressures and more. I hope I am not being too authoritative here when I suggest, from my experience as a teacher of 11 and 12 year olds and father of three boys, that young people are:

  • less apt to understand the mechanics behind digital sites
  • less open to individual inquiry about what is happening to their data
  • or are more likely to shrug off the trade-off because they see things “in the moment” and not in the larger picture
  • less likely, particular as teenagers, to have an adult they can turn to for help and advice (parents are often the adult of last resort during the teen years)
  • more apt to follow the social herd into something new without fully understanding the trade-offs
  • more likely to have their unique concerns be ignored by adults when a technology is in the sphere of public debate (read danah boyd’s work for a better understanding of all of this)

Take a look …

This video pulls some of the ideas from the research article, and hopefully, it allows for several point of discussion, including:

  • What rights should young people have in the Digital Age?
  • How do we articulate their concerns?
  • How can we empower young people to be part of the conversation and support their unique status when technology companies and governments try to exploit them?
  • Where is the line between adult protectiveness and youthful exploration?

I don’t have the answers. But, as a teacher and a father, I am often thinking about it. I hope you are, too.

Peace (in the kids’ world),

  1. Primo summing up here. I would also like to see some positive correspondences that young people have.

    Young people are more likely to

    have energy,
    capacity to care,
    capacity to explore
    and…so…much …more.

    Antispamocity: bud umbra

    Terry:Trump is just one bud umbra.
    Kevin: What’s a bud umbra?
    Terry: It’s a gateway to covfefe.
    Kevin: Good friends don’t let friends drive covfefe.

    • So true … look for the positive way forward. It’s easy to get bogged down in all the stuff that doesn’t work for us. I get bogged down in that, anyway.

  2. Great post and thanks for the link to the paper and the video. I enjoyed reading Doug’s post and commented on it I prefer your emphasis on being part of the conversation and think all of us, adults and children need to be part of that conversation, and to be more informed. I try very hard to learn more about how platforms store my personal data and use it but it isn’t easy , is it? And that’s because it’s in the platforms’ interest to obfuscate. I remember on a certain cMOOC we both participated in that there was a reluctance to critique Facebook and discuss that anyone was having a less than perfect experience:)

    So to be informed in order to join in the conversation I think we need activism and resistance too. I think adults and children can learn a lot from each other as long as they can get the information they need. I really don’t think that telling people which platforms to use or not to use is the answer. And if we mandate a platform in education that carries responsibilities over data, etc.

    • This is true: “…it’s in the platforms’ interest to obfuscate.”
      Thanks for taking the time to write such a poignant response, Frances.
      Conversation is the starting point. The question is: where do we go from there?

  3. I have participated in research and done a lot of thinking about where we go from here and it really isn’t an easy question to answer – few important questions are.
    In practical terms, following the work of Paul deHaye can inform us and give us some practical activities.
    I also think we can reframe our view to combine critique AND activism and had a really useful conversation at my presentation at OER17

  4. The article Kevin pointed to has a lot of links. Is anyone aggregating this into a web library, and trying to build a curriculum, so more and more people would dig into these links over many years to build a deeper understanding of the issues and to innovate new solutions, based on borrowing ideas from work already being done in many different places?

    In the link below I point to a web library I started building in the 1970s, before I knew about the internet. I’ve been building it on-line since 1998.

    If I just add a link to this article (I already point to Kevin’s blog), I make it available to anyone who visits, five seconds later, or a year later. However, it’s of little value unless others are acting as facilitators to draw others to the library and help them understand and apply what they find.

    If someone is building a similar library, focused on rights of children in internet world, or other topics related to what I focus on, or what #digciz is focused on, please share the links as part of the social media interaction.

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