The speakers of the first session explore a diversity of problems and associated research challenges related to child wellbeing online in different country contexts. Contributors discussed key opportunities and risks to children’s rights when online, and identified areas where more research is needed.
Chair: Sonia Livingstone, Professor, LSE and EU Kids Online, UK
- Alexandre Barbosa
- Patrick Burton
- Nishant Shah
- Bu Wei
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Manager, Cetic.br and EU Kids Online, Brazil: ‘As Brazilian kids go online, what are the opportunities and risks?’
Alexandre Barbosa describes the experience of adapting the EU Kids Online framework for the Brazilian Kids Online survey, emphasizing the importance of collecting cross-culturally comparable data. When reflecting on the challenge of translating research for policy makers, Barbosa shares how creating a network of stakeholders committed to child rights is a significant outcome. He highlights potential barriers to children’s rights in the digital age, and questions the role of regulation, content development and the media in protecting children online.
Director, Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP), South Africa: ‘Opportunities and barriers to (researching) children’s rights online in South Africa.’
Patrick Burton provides an overview of children and technology in the South African context, where only 23 per cent of children live with both parents and 55 per cent live below the poverty line. Modes of usage and legal context for digital devices raise questions about how research can inform interventions and potentially result in policy change. Burton addresses how to measure the quality of research, what counts as evidence, and how to ensure that the evaluations of projects and research are of high quality. He encourages the use of data, not media panics, in driving policy discussion.
Co-founder, The Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, India: ‘A child’s-eye view of the world’
Nishant Shah describes the many contradictions that qualitative research reveals, based on his work in a region with the highest mobile phone penetration in rural India. Here Shah discovered that the women, not permitted to use technology, stay up-to-date on favourite soap operas through their young children re-enacting key moments for the village, effectively functioning as “human internets.” Shah urges a shift in thinking from ‘children on the internet to children as internet’. In developing studies of children, Shah recommends empowering young people to help researchers develop a child’s eye view of the world – how do they think of themselves, and what interventions would they want to make?
Director, Research Centre for Children and Media, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China: ‘What’s the problem with children’s rights online in China? A critical perspective’
Bu Wei shares that in China 195 million children are urban internet users and 61.5 million children are rural users. About four in every ten children are affected by migration, leading to a loss of social support and low school attendance. A stark divide between urban and rural children is seen not only in internet access, but also in resources, information and language. While a majority of urban children fully participate in the digital age, most rural children have no access, and policy and interventions tend to prioritise urban children and new ICTs. Pairing research with participatory action, Wei invites the panel to consider how new mobile technologies can address the urgent needs of migrant children.