Children's Online Privacy and Commercial Use of Data

Growing up in a digital age

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). The project also explores how responsibility should be apportioned among relevant stakeholders, and possible implications for children’s evasive tactics (ignoring age barriers or finding workarounds to parental consent requirements) and their digital rights.

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."


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


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


Rishita Nandagiri
Research Assistant

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

Further information


This project is funded by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (March 2018 - April 2019).