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John Carr (eNACSO) made a really good point about how today’s challenges reagarding child safety are not the same problems that we were
facing a couple of years ago. Now, children unfortunately give away much too
much about their whereabouts, by constantly posting comments on social newtworking
sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Carr pointed out that some children who are
now on Facebook have close to 5000 friends. Obviously, only a handful of those
are people they know in real-life, and some of them could be lurkers and
potential abusers. In this context, when a child writes a status about where he
or she is at a certain time, they are broadcasting this news about their
physical location to all 5000 people on their list. And, of course, to quote
Carr, “You don’t need to be Einstein to see the potential of these application
to do harm”.
Another great point he made concerning child safety online was the existence of victims. More than often, we wait until we see proof of
victimisation or abuse until we take charge. This is a problem, since it
shouldn’t be necessary for victims to surface in order to us to realise that
things can go, as Carr pointed out, “really wrong”.
The other speaker who I believe made some good points was Stephen Deadman (Vodafone), who spoke about social media as an new type of location
service, in essence echoing john carr’s message. A very interesting distinction
he made in terms of child safety was the one between social media and tracking
devices in cell phones. In the first case, the child is not actually tracked or
surveilled. The child discloses his location without even knowing, most of the
time (through status updates, twitter messages, and so on). That is why there
need to be different solutions to these two problems (sometimes people treat
cell phone tracking and social media privacy issues the same, which is wrong –
and here, I definitely agree with Stephen Deadman).
While Deadman did not necessary offer any particular solutions as to how these challenges can be tackled in practice, he
nevertheless offered an approach. In order to come up with good strategies,
companies need to start with the user, rather than the desired effect. In other
words, companies should ask themselves ‘how do users want to have their privacy
protected?’ and work from there.
Overall, I thought the workshop provided some really good insights to the new problems concerning child safety and the different
approaches that need to be created in order to tackle the ever-chaning nature
of media that children use. What would be the main messages then? First of all,
it is never too early to start thinking about strategies for child protection
online. Secondly, as with most strategies, one size definitely does not fit