With the new GDPR coming into force, companies have been scrambling to get their data protection policies in order. As a result, our inboxes are overflowing with their email requests to review terms of service and privacy conditions. However, we cannot forget that little kids are also active in the digital world today. So what does GDPR mean for their privacy and rights? Moreover, how much of the legal jargon in the fine print do they understand? More importantly, what can we do to support kids to become smart online users? Let’s find out.
What is GDPR?
Last month the European Union (EU) introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to the EU law. It aims to better preserve the privacy and rights of Europeans through data protection. Moreover, companies that do not abide by this regulation will face harsh legal repercussions including hefty fines. The debate on GDPR has been simmering for the last couple of years, but only came into force on the 25th of May this year. The public outcry after serious breaches of privacy by giant tech companies were uncovered, nudged it along. Effectively, GDPR compels companies or more specifically ‘data controllers and processors’ to fulfill the rights of ‘data subjects’ which is us, the users.
What will the new GDPR mean for your child?
It is likely that your child is among the millions of children who are active online, everyday. Therefore, their online activity together with any information they provide is monitored and collected by service providers. However, children are naturally less aware of the risks and implications of privacy violations related to personal data. Thus, just like in the real world they are legally entitled to a high level of protection online. There’s even a digital age of consent which varies between countries and apps. GDPR sets specific requirements with regards to personal data, activities and services related to children. The regulation emphasizes their protection in 5 different articles within it.
The reality of GDPR
Introduction of GDPR is a much needed push in the uphill battle towards ensuring our privacy and rights are respected and protected in an increasingly digital world. Moreover, it has got people to pay attention to the fine print and care about how their information is used, or if it can be used at all. In other words GDPR increased our digital literacy and made companies more accountable.
However, the reality is like most laws GDPR is also up for interpretation. Experts claim areas within the regulation such as rules on profiling children, how to verify parental consent, how to conduct risk-based impact assessment, etc., are ill-defined and confusing. Furthermore, the sections related to children are largely guidelines for companies on how to set up their internal frameworks. Most problematic is the way children can claim their rights or get compensated if their privacy is breached, is unclear and lacks legal enforcement.
What can we do to support kids with data protection?
Talk to your kids
Make a list of all the apps, social networks and other online sites your children use, and get familiar with the respective terms of service and privacy conditions. Explain to the kids in words they understand what they are giving away and how it can be used. Make sure they know their rights, how to give consent and to never reveal important personal information about themselves, their friends, family or anyone else. Most importantly, insist that they let you know first and get your permission before signing up for anything online. There are many resources to help you start this dialog, and also understand what some of these privacy policies actually mean.
Promote digital citizenship
The reality is we cannot and should not keep children away from the emerging generation of smart devices. The world is becoming more and more digital and kids need to be able to make sense of it. Therefore, we must help them to become good digital citizens by teaching them to use technology and media in safe, responsible and effective ways. To learn more about how to enable kids to put technology to good use read our article on digital citizenship.
Use privacy-focused digital tools
Most apps and organizations extend specific features as well as extra measures to protect children’s privacy, especially if they provide services directly to children. Find out about these tools, test them and adapt what works best for your child. This way you can let your child explore, learn, create and share online without worrying extensively. Through some uniquely designed apps you can seamlessly guide and support your child through the digital world, and empower them to become smart users at an early age.
Be involved and care
We don’t have to wait for the next online privacy scandal to start the second wave of data protection. We have the momentum, the power and the means to make a change. Pay attention to the policies, rules and regulations that directly impact your little one each time she goes online. Contact your representatives and service providers, and ask for more and better conditions. Liaise with your child’s school and other parents to explore what you can do as a community. After all most children access the digital world right from the comfort of their homes. Therefore, the path to protecting their privacy and rights online, should start from home too.
Learn more about how to support little children to be good digital citizens.