After an initial mapping of recent research and youth consultation work carried out by Safer Internet Centres (SICs) in the Insafe network, the BIK Youth Ambassadors – Matej from the Czech Republic, Kathrin from Germany, Charalampos from Greece, Eiman from Ireland, Algirdas from Lithuania, and Sina from Luxembourg – collectively reflected on which priorities should be set in order to ensure that online platforms and services are designed in an age appropriate way that truly meets the developmental needs of children and young people.
Encouraging online platforms and services to meet the information and transparency requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a key objective in that regard. Every citizen of the EU – including children – has the right to obtain information about what happens to their personal data "in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language". Article 12 of the GDPR emphasises that this should be particularly the case for information addressed specifically to a child. Moreover, Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that, in order to come up with truly informative, effective and appealing privacy or data policies, children should be involved in the information design and evaluation processes.
Therefore, the BIK Youth Ambassadors have been working a Youth Pledge for a Better Internet, which they presented on Tuesday, 11 February 2020, at a high-level SID meeting in the European Commission involving members of the Alliance to better protect minors online. The companies represented were Deutsche Telekom, Disney, Facebook, Google, Lego, Liberty Global, RTL, Samsung, Snap, Sulake, and Twitter. Industry associations were also present: ICT Coalition and Toy Industries of Europe. Civil society was represented by COFACE-Families Europe. The BIK Youth Ambassadors started their session - hosted by June Lowery-Kingston and Claire Bury from the European Commission's Directorate-General Communications Network, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) - with an interactive exercise involving the entire audience, aiming to highlight some of the issues and concerns everyone - children and adults alike - encounters on the internet.
They then introduced their Youth Pledge for a Better Internet to the audience, making several suggestions to companies to help them make their online platforms and services' privacy policies more appropriate to children and young people. Indeed, recent studies have shown that one needs, on average, a university degree to properly comprehend the privacy policies of social media, websites and apps. The BIK Youth Ambassadors came up with several concrete ideas in order to solve this problem, such as simplifying the language employed, using infographics, providing users with an incentive to read the privacy policies, and more. The presentation was followed by a moment of exchange during which the BIK Youth Ambassadors challenged the industry representatives on their policies and practices and on how these could be improved.
In an ongoing dialogue with industry, the BIK Youth Ambassadors will continue with this line of work throughout 2020. In the spring of 2020, they will participate in a co-design workshop in Brussels where they will exchange ideas and best practices. The companies involved can then reflect on these discussions internally regarding the age-appropriateness of the policies they have in place. The BIK Youth Ambassadors will then, in November 2020, present the results of their activities at the Safer Internet Forum (SIF).