Last week I was fortunate enough not only to attend Child Internet Safety Summit (CIS) 2014 in London but also give a presentation and take part in a panel discussion. With speakers and attendees all focussed on providing solutions and guidance that will keep kids safe online it made for an interesting day full of challenging debate.
If you were unable to attend, here are my thoughts on some of the most important topics that were discussed by industry, charity, and government representatives.
I applaud and agree with the UK Government’s unique stance in creating a standardised filtering service through ISPs both in the home and public Wi-Fi. This means that that inappropriate adult content is kept to those that opt-in to see it and away from curious children. It’s not a fix-all though and the attendees at CIS this year seemed all too aware of that.
For example there are other issues not necessarily solved by filtering such as peer 2 peer communications, chat rooms, not to mention problems around proper ethical and moral behaviour when online. These are more difficult to filter.
The UK press, however, seemed addicted to looking at Internet safety as a singular threat in the guise of pornography. While I fully understand the issue that inappropriate content and the effects it has on children, I feel that the conversation needs to move on and I got the impression that I wasn’t the only one…
The other topic that was discussed at some length was that of cyberbullying and whether there is a need to criminalize it. In my view, while cyberbullying can have devastating and sometimes tragic consequences, it is an area that requires further study and learning. There are different levels of cyberbullying and each needs to be tackled differently with varying degrees of severity. I don’t believe that turning children in to criminals is always the best course of action. We need to learn more about the motivation and intent of cyberbullies before we can issue such harsh punishments.
Another interesting theme that arose from this year’s CIS is the issue of “big data”. People voiced a growing need for us to also understand the data being collected on our children. The consensus was largely that this is an industry issue with companies needing to be more transparent about trading user data for profit. With discussions about the ‘right to be forgotten’ in the online world, I think it’s equally important for us to first think about the ‘right to know what’s collected’. These two run hand in hand in my opinion as you can only ask to be forgotten on what you know is collected.
My last conclusion at the event is the need for greater engagement with parents. We are all busy people and it can be difficult finding the time to stay on top of tech trends that allow us to keep our children safe. Waiting for an issue to arise before taking action is like trying to stop a horse that’s already bolted.
Governments, educators and companies need to get greater pro-active engagement from parents so that we can educate them on the protective actions they can take to allow their kids to enjoy the Internet risk free.
Remember the Internet is an awesome tool enabling fast communications, interactive learning and many other benefits that enhance the lives our children will live.
July 9, 2014