Care of duty for our children

With so much in the news lately about children’s screen time and impact of time spent on line, a report published in November warns about the collection of data and the duty of care internet giants should have in relation to young people. Should we be asking whether the internet giants should have a greater duty of care and how far should this go?

Ania Hildrey, headteacher at Abbot’s Lea School in Woolton, Liverpool

The Commissioner’s call for the companies promoting cyber engagement in society to reflect on the level of collection and sharing of children’s data was of particular interest to me when I read the report published last November.
It is an accepted fact amongst educationalists that the amount of information we hold regarding “our people” has reached unprecedented levels and, more interestingly, it just keeps on growing! As the headteacher of a special school catering for children age 3-19 with Autism and associated complex learning, health and social needs, I continuously navigate the world of hundreds of documents coming in daily waves through the physical or e-doors of my school.
The ethically and morally righteous concept of “nothing about me without me” appears to be challenged by the ever-more-complex matrix of interlinked, but far too often, uncoordinated pieces of evidence of a child’s life – often from pre-birth all the way to the tentative aspirations and plans for their future. Alongside, the vastly rich information regarding familial networks, previous schools, medical conditions, social engagement (or disengagement) of the children, their peers and others tightly or loosely related, also feature.
It is imperative that this information load is managed carefully and only to serve a positive role in supporting children and young people in their lives.
The benefits can be enormous, but the risks of mismanagement of such holistic data – truly petrifying.

Hannah Moreton, pastoral manager, Rainford Sixth Form 

The value of our personal data has been brought to the forefront with the introduction of new GDPR regulations. Young people are possibly more exposed to online institutions than any other age bracket. They will not realise the significant impact this will have and it is unacceptable for companies to take advantage of the fact that they are less aware of the consequences of organisations tracking their online activity and potentially using this information to target them to influence their purchasing habits.

Patricia Winters, parent

We live in an age of access that allow our children to enjoy the wonders of the internet. Not a bad thing you might think. However, the collection of data by the internet giants can be dangerous. How many of our children answer the questionnaires which pop up so regularly on Facebook or other social media sites without thinking? As adults we do it too. But all this data is recorded somewhere and it’s all about us. As an adult we should know what we are doing and what this means for us. To a child this is simply a bit of fun, and to be fair it can be, but the ramifications for our children in their future life cannot be underestimated. Our digital footprint will live forever and can be used in the future by others to influence what we do and what we buy. So should a duty of care be extended to young people by the companies harvesting such personal data – yes! Children are malleable and open to exploitation if such a duty of care is not exercised.

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