Six Generational Lessons for the Future of Kids' Online Safety (Part 2)

February 12, 2020

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence have already wrought unprecedented opportunities and risks to modern life. But not all aspects of safeguarding our families against technologies are without precedent.

The following is excerpted from Online Safety in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, a FOSI whitepaper written in partnership with Kaleido Insights, a research firm specializing in emerging technologies. This is the second of a two-part summary of takeaways, compiled from interviews and analysis across parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, and cyber safety experts. (Check out part one here)

Lesson #4 Exercise Analogous Thinking. Parents need to look no further than their own childhood experiences to better sympathize and understand kids’ relationship to technology. The concerns the previous parental generations may have had around analogous media consumption are still applicable to parental concerns today.

There are fundamental differences here between previous forms of media and the Internet, particularly around data collection, sharing, and the potential for exploitation. But there are also important similarities, which can be instrumental in developing parents’ empathy, forecasting risks, and remaining open when kids share their stories, and most importantly, when building ongoing trust and rapport.

Key takeaway: Identify an analogue of similar games, toys, relationships, or events that emerged through your own childhood, and leverage these in times of tension or teaching.

Lesson #5 Minimize Kids’ Data Debt. Few parents today are aware that many online platforms and connected devices are collecting, sharing, and monetizing data, which is then used for profiling. The question of whether commercial actors, advertisers, and data brokers harvest kids’ data has many implications. Even beyond how such data are often used today, often for behavioral marketing, do we really want kids’ personal data trails to impact their future opportunities, such as college admissions or loan approvals? What about for kids with limited access to technology? For kids with behavioral or developmental issues? How can our online safety decisions today prevent imposing a data debt on future generations? Parents and educators play a critical role here at home and school, as the primary purchasers of the products and services harvesting such data.

“When you're engaged in service delivery to children, the bar for data use should be high, and it's not today. Moreover, kids at the bottom of the social ladder are impacted first. We can do better.” – Teacher, Washington DC

Key takeaway: Parents and educators must aim to understand how platform providers collect kids’ data, exercise discretion, align with other parents and school administrators, and appeal to local leaders.

Lesson #6 It takes a village. Many stress the need for more accountability, support, and collaboration. This is needed not only to safeguard our online and physical worlds, but certain elements of the human experience: empathy, respect, discernment, adversity, and resilience.

“How we engage around technology, how to ensure divergent thought, how to really make sure this is safe for our kids… this is all of our responsibility. We can’t let our increased dependency on tech erode our humanism. Instead we should imbue our humanism into tech!” – Grandfather, California

In many ways, this final lesson is both ancient and novel. Artificial Intelligence offers all of us powerful new capabilities, but it also requires new forms of informational accountability. Our whitepaper outlines a Culture of Responsibility, wherein everyone must play a role in shaping adoption and governance of our future technologies.

Written by

Jessica Groopman

Jessica Groopman specializes in automation technologies impact business including IoT, AI, and blockchain.

She concentrates on the application of sensors and machine learning with a focus on user experience and data integrity. Past clients range from start-ups to media agencies to large brands including Technicolor, Microsoft, Honeywell, Cisco, Qualcomm, Dell, Intel, DuPont, Pandora, and numerous vendors to develop research, content, and digital strategies.

Jessica is a frequent speaker at IoT industry events. She is also a frequent contributor to numerous blogs and /media outlets. She has been principal analyst with Tractica where she contributed to their automation and robotics practice. She has also served as contributing member of the International IoT Council, the IEEE’s Internet of Things Group, IoT Guru Network, and FC Business Intelligence’s IoT Nexus Advisory Board. Jessica was also included in Onalytica’s list of the 100 Most Influential Thought Leaders in IoT.

Jessica served as research director and principal analyst with Harbor Research and as an industry analyst with Altimeter Group. Earlier, she lead research at Focus Research and was a research analyst at Tippit Research.