Prioritising child well-being in digital design: Insafe joins UNICEF and LEGO Group at IGF 2023 session

The 18th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) continues in Kyoto, Japan, with the Insafe Coordinator participating in a child well-being session hosted by UNICEF and the LEGO Group.

Date 2023-10-12 Author BIK Team Section awareness, news, youth Topic media literacy/education Audience children and young people, media specialist, organisations and industry, research, policy and decision makers, teachers, educators and professionals
People sitting in a conference

As children's social interactions, entertainment, and educational needs progressively shift toward online platforms, this session discusses the concept of well-being for children in the digital age. It assesses its significance, considering the increasing prominence of digital technologies in children's lives and the growing concerns about online harms. To unpack the notion of child well-being and show why it is an essential concept in internet governance regimes, the LEGO Group and UNICEF discussed their collaborative initiative, Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children (RITEC). The project aims to develop practical tools that enable businesses and governments to prioritise children's well-being in digital design.

During the panel discussion, the LEGO Group, represented by Adam Ingle, mentioned the company's commitment to learning and well-being has led them into the digital space. Hence, the LEGO Group aspired to be the flagship builder that lifts industry best practices for kids. While the internet was not designed with kids in mind, their vision is to shape the future for the better, with respect for child rights in healthy game design that nurtures imagination and learning.

Aditi Singh, a young advocate from Dream Esports India and Esports Monk, discussed the challenge of being a female gamer online and her advocacy work for more female representation in the online and gaming world. Tech companies, governments and civil society were rightfully encouraged to collaborate, but Aditi’s conclusion was on a more individual level. We all can make a useful, valuable impact.

Credits: Better Internet for Kids

In the panel discussion, Sabrina Vorbau, representing the Insafe network, gave an interesting view on how the BIK+ strategy empowers children as key drivers of this landmark policy. On behalf of the European Commission, European Schoolnet (EUN), serving as coordinator of the European Network of Safer Internet Centres, supported the revision process of the BIK strategy, which started in 2021 in a multi-stakeholder manner. Sabrina praised the consultation process done by the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres. "Take it to the young people first" is a promise, not just a slogan. 

While the BIK+ strategy primarily functions as a policy document, it's essential to acknowledge the importance of raising children's awareness. Therefore, we collaborated to produce a child-friendly version of the BIK+ strategy, making the document more accessible to young people." In terms of implementation, significant progress has been made. Still, more work must be done to ensure that young people are actively involved in policy-making processes and the design and development of new technologies.

Subsequently, Shuli Gilutz, PhD holder and global expert on digital design and play at UNICEF, focused her intervention on the importance of impact assessment. In digital space, the impact goes beyond mitigating harm; it extends into creating positive outcomes. Indeed, digital play has the potential to empower, stimulate creativity, enhance competence, and build resilience among children. However, only some designers know how to achieve this goal. It is the challenge UNICEF is trying to tackle: training designers to create inspiring and positive digital experiences for children.

Lastly, Professor Amanda Third from Western Sydney University highlighted a shift in the IGF discussions from a narrow emphasis on protection towards well-being and positive content. Amanda summarised her latest research, based on surveys conducted with young people, that resulted in the Child Wellbeing Framework. The study reveals that children have diverse experiences in digital play, but joy is a binding factor. Children understand boundaries and may encounter unpleasant experiences online. Vulnerable children often face issues like discrimination and culturally inappropriate content. Hence, Amanda stresses the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach, including children, to foster social interaction within safe digital spaces. 

Hence, adults must educate and co-create with children and young people rather than only acting on their behalf.

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