Growing Up Digital – new report in England

The Children's Commissioner for England launched a new report in early January 2017 which is a culmination of the work of a "Growing Up Digital" task force. The task force is calling for three interventions from the government in order to ensure that children and young people are fully prepared for a digital life.

The plan is to give children and young people resilience, information and power when they are online and the task force feels that this could be achieved through the following interventions:

  1. The creation of a digital citizenship programme to be compulsory in every school from ages 4 to 14.
  2. The implementation of the intent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GRPR) by introducing simplified Terms and Conditions for digital services offered to children and young people.
  3. A new Children's Digital Ombudsman to mediate between under 18s and social media companies.

The report makes reference to the Childnet (part of the UK Safer Internet Centre (SIC)) digital leaders programme and also highlights that the BBC (the UK national TV broadcaster) will be launching new content on Safer Internet Day (SID), taking place globally on Tuesday, 7 February 2017, aimed at helping children and young people to develop genuine resilience in the digital world. Further information on SID more generally is available at www.saferinternetday.org.

An interesting aspect of the report concerns Instagram. Recognising the popularity of the app with many young people, the Children's Commissioner asked the law firm Schillings to draft a simplified version of Instagram's Terms and Conditions. The resulting one page document is particularly interesting and may be particularly useful to use with children and young people. An extract follows:

Your rights and our rights

  1. Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.
  2. It will be assumed that you own what you post, and what you post does not break the law. If it does, and you are fined, you will have to pay that fine.
  3. Although you are responsible for the information you put on Instagram, we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).

A partner from the law firm that produced the simplified Terms and Conditions noted that:

"Even experienced lawyers can struggle to understand websites' Terms and Conditions so what hope do young people have? Social media providers need to ask themselves: how can someone give informed consent to something they can't possibly understand? The situation is serious. Young people are unwittingly giving away personal information, with no real understanding of who is holding that information, where they are holding it and what they are going to do with it."

Read the full report on the Children's Commissioner for England website.


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