A full recording of this panel is available on YouTube. View it here.
On Wednesday 26th May, the Family Online Safety Institute hosted its 2021 European Forum. Stephen Balkam, FOSI CEO, moderated the conversation between foremost experts in child psychology, wellbeing, and online play. He was joined by Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Richard Graham of Good Thinking: The London Digital Mental Wellbeing Service, Laura Higgins of Roblox, and Rukayah Sarumi of the LEGO Group.
The panelists began their conversation by reflecting on some of the changes in play that they observed throughout the pandemic. Young children have adapted and remained resilient, often by using technology to maintain social connection and build communities online. Debates about screen time have evolved and parents are now looking at children’s daily tech use in comparison to other healthy behaviors like adequate sleep, nutrition, and socialization.
The conversation pivoted to how diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts make a difference in early childhood play. Research has shown that children from disadvantaged backgrounds often lack access to safe areas for outside play, and thus spend more time on screens for entertainment. This reiterates the importance of creating more high-quality content for kids. Panelists agreed on the importance of closing the digital divide and ensuring all children have access to online opportunities and educational materials.
The panel shared the different social, cognitive, creative, and emotional skills that kids gain when they play online, such as developing a sense of agency and conflict resolution, both of which can be transferred to different experiences in the real world.
To conclude, panelists discussed the rising concerns that parents have as kids transition back to in-person education and how best to maintain the benefits that have come from remote schooling. Encouraging digital citizenship and digital literacy was reiterated by all panelists as a priority for governments and industry around the world.
Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Dr. Ameenuddin is the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. She is also a pediatrician with extensive clinical experience in how communications and media impact children. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, in the Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. During routine well-child visits, Dr. Ameenuddin invests significant time in conversations with children, teens, and their parents about the safe and appropriate use of digital media. She answers their questions and counsels them as they make difficult decisions about how to set boundaries with their devices. She is also passionate about advocating for underserved populations and immigrant populations who face systemic barriers to realizing optimal health and achieving their full potential.
Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin
Dr. Richard Graham
Good Thinking: London's Digital Mental Wellbeing Service
Dr. Richard Graham is a Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, and a former Clinical Director at the Tavistock Clinic. He is currently Clinical Lead for Good Thinking: London’s Digital Mental Well-being Service. (www.good-thinking.uk)
He has worked extensively in digital health, e-safety for the last decade and established the first Technology Addiction Service for Young People in the UK in 2010. In June 2016, he was appointed to the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS; the British Government’s principal advisory body for online safety and security for young people) and Co-Chairs the Digital Resilience Working Group.
He also works with the BBC, as Digital Well-being Consultant to the Own It App.
Dr. Richard Graham
Director of Community Safety and Digital Civility
Laura Higgins is Director of Community Safety and Digital Civility at Roblox with more than two decades of experience building proven safeguarding, online safety and civility programs. Roblox’s groundbreaking digital civility initiative is focused on providing the community with the skills needed to create positive online experiences in partnership with the world’s leading safety and industry organizations that drive meaningful change. Civility online is a new concept that’s based on existing principles—that everybody has a part to play in making the digital world a better place. In her previous role with the UK Safer Internet Centre (part of the “Better Internet for Kids” project funded by the European Commission), Laura founded several award-winning services including the Professionals Online Safety Helpline and the world’s first helpline dedicated to supporting victims of image based abuse. Laura has worked with the biggest names in tech sitting on Twitter and Snapchat’s advisory boards. She has spoken on digital safety topics across the globe and regularly appears in the media sharing her expertise with industry experts, parents and kids.
Senior Manager, Government and Public Affairs
The LEGO Group
Rukayah is a public policy professional with ten years of experience advocating on child rights in domestic, development and humanitarian contexts. Currently at the LEGO Group, she focuses on education reform and engages governments and other public institutions on the transformative role learning-through-play has on children’s education and development.