Who Cares for the Kids in the Digital Age?

Google, Facebook, SnapChat, Musical.ly don’t give a hoot about kids , but quite a few voices are speaking up for them

Caroline Isautier
Oct 24, 2018 · 4 min read

Its now well documented, some 20 years after Google was born: Silicon Valley’s big consumer tech firms, Google, Facebook (now including Instagram), Snap and Amazon, further to the North, despite the kool-aid they serve masses, have not integrated protection of children’s minds and health in their business model.

The Internet is still a World Wild West in 2018

The “ You’re the product ”, advertising-based model they embrace requires maximum screen time from viewers and all their efforts are to work towards that goal, despite recent announcements trying to show actions to mitigate digital addiction, bullying and teen suicide.

If they’d chosen to abide by child protection laws or simple ethics, they would have made it impossible to post on their platforms without moderation, as all other media have done for years. But that would have required people… and expenses! Geeks hate resorting to human intervention (so weak!), and Sillicon Valley investors hate to spend if they can avoid it.

Lawmakers, educators and parents are mostly lagging behind and still embarrassed to place limits on digital media use because of their lack of familiarity with technology. However, with the twenty year hindsight we now have on the digital revolution, quite a few technically savvy individuals and groups have raised their voices to defend the kids. We’ll see how these groups hope to fill the knowledge gap.

Educating about Digital’s Threats to Health : Common Sense Media, Media Smarts, Screenagers, CyberWise, Parents Know More and hundreds more

Common Sense Media (US): The 15 year-old San Francisco-based non profit reviews all media ( TV, films, series, apps, social media and video games) to help parents sort through the good, and the violent, sexual and bad.

It has partnered with the Center For Humane Technology in February 2018 to launch a national Truth About Tech campaign in the US.

Consumer tech like video games and social media has addiction built-in by design, says the Center for Humane Technology

Our society is being hijacked by technology.

What began as a race to monetize our attention is now eroding the pillars of our society: mental health, democracy, social relationships, and our children. “ — Center for Humane Technology

Media Smarts ( Canada) : This is the Canadian “ equivalent” of Common Sense Media, seeking to advance digital and media literacy in Canadian schools, homes and communities. As fits a Canadian entity, it is more toned down in its communication and based on the European idea of media litteracy. ;) It focuses on research and material for teachers and parents, with none of the rating of digital content Common Sense Media performs.

As an innovative approach to educating youth, Media Smarts has released the Data Defenders online game.

Screenagers (US) : Screenagers is the name of a documentary released in January 2016 by Dr Delaney Ruston, a Stanford doctor and mother, thats been shown in thousands of schools worldwide and translated in French , Spanish and other languages.

In it, she looks at kids growing up in a tech saturated world where a balance needs to be drawn between screen time and screen-free time. In the documentary, filmmaker Delaney Ruston must decide if she should give an iPhone to her teenage daughter.

Parents and kids see it when schools decide to book a showing. See here to find the nearest school showing of Screenagers near you, mainly in the US Canada but also in New Zealand, Hungary, and elsewhere worldwide.

CyberWise (US), Parents Know More (US), Cyber Sensible (US), Digital Com Academy (Canada) : These smaller entities started by passionate individuals (teachers, marketing or cyber security professionals and parents) all gave themsemlves a mission to educate kids, teens, educators and parents on digital citizenship.

Digital Citizenship encompasses many notions that have to do with engaging responsably and knowingly online. With Google, Facebook and Snap having pushed the notion that all Tech is good per se and kids know better than elders, it hasn’t reached Wikipedia entry status yet but it is defined as part of the Digital Citizen entry here. It goes further than anti bullying or privacy education.

Digital Citizenship involves: digital etiquette, communication, law, rights and responsibilities, commerce, access, health and security.

These and numerous other groups mostly present to educate on good digital media use in schools around the country, invited by parent associations ( PTAs), connected principals, or church groups.Religious groups often are the first ones to see the moral impact of unrestrained digital media use.

Hopefully with more and more voices seeing tech in a more nuanced, grey light, we’ll see the end of this 20-year World Wild Web era ( 98–2018). Big consumer Tech will be pushed by governements, under the pressure of schools and parents, to put safeguards in place “IRL” ( In Real Life”) for kids to stay safe online.

Caroline Isautier

Written by

From Digital Marketing to Digital Well Being. Tech for Good. / Pro du marketing digital passée à la Tech4Good. Facebook.com/TechforGoodCanada

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