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Children's data and privacy online

Growing up in a digital age

With growing concerns over children’s online privacy and the commercial uses of their data, it is vital that children’s understandings of the digital environment, their digital skills and their capacity to consent are taken into account in designing services, regulation and policy.

Professor Sonia Livingstone, Principal Investigator

This project led by Professor Sonia Livingstone seeks to address questions and evidence gaps concerning children’s conception of privacy online, their capacity to consent, their functional skills (e.g. in understanding terms and conditions or managing privacy settings online), and their deeper critical understanding of the online environment, including both its interpersonal and, especially, its commercial dimensions (including its business models, uses of data and algorithms, forms of redress, commercial interests, systems of trust and governance). For the launch presentation, see here.

The project takes a child-centred approach, arguing that only thus can researchers provide the needed integration of children’s understandings, online affordances, resulting experiences and wellbeing outcomes. Methodologically, the project prioritises children’s own voices and experiences within the wider framework of evidence-based policy development by:

  • Conducting focus group research with children of secondary school age, their parents, and educators, from selected schools around the country;
  • Organising child deliberation panels for formulating child-inclusive policy and educational/awareness-raising recommendations;
  • Creating an online toolkit to support and promote children’s digital privacy skills and awareness.

For the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, Sonia Livingstone said:

“With growing concerns over children’s online privacy and the commercial uses of their data, it is vital that children’s understandings of the digital environment, their digital skills and their capacity to consent are taken into account in designing services, regulation and policy. I’m delighted to be leading an investigation into these timely questions in a project that aims to listen to children’s voices and develop tools to empower them better."

The project was specifically mentioned by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in his recent End of Mission statement following his review of privacy legislation in the UK:

"I…share the concern that children require increased protection against the collection and use of their personal data by private corporations, as well as strong guidelines for parents’ sharing videos and photos of their children on social media… Above all, children need to be heard on their needs and views on their right to privacy. In this sense, I commend the upcoming research by Professor Sonia Livingstone funded by the Information Commissioner’s Office, which will focus on children’s understanding of digital privacy."

The project timetable is April 2018 to April 2019. Please see below for findings and outputs.

People

Sonia Livingstone

Professor Sonia Livingstone
Principal Investigator

Interests and expertise: media and everyday life; media audiences; children and digital media; media literacy; children’s rights in the digital environment; mediated participation; online risks, privacy and safety; media regulation in the public interest

MariyaStoilova2016(1)

Dr Mariya Stoilova
Research Officer

Interests and expertise: digital technologies, well-being, and family support; social change and transformations of intimate life; citizenship and social inequalities

NANDAGIRI

Rishita Nandagiri
Research Assistant

Interests and expertise: reproductive health; sexual health; reproductive rights; youth leadership; ICPD; abortion; abortion rights; India; feminism; postcolonialism

Publications and other outputs

Funding