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Children’s Safety and Privacy in the Digital Age

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For children growing up in Canada today, the divide between their online world and their offline one is narrower than it has ever been.

Growing up means growing up online. But while parents and children can rely on safety standards and regulations to ensure safe experiences for children in everything from car seats and hockey helmets to TV shows, policies and standards for online safety have not been developed to match the central role that digital tools play in learning, socializing, and expressing themselves for children and youth.

As policymakers, standards development organizations, and industry develop new solutions and policies to address growing concerns about the digital age, such as privacy, competition, and cybersecurity, it is important that responses from industry, public policy, and standards not fall prey to the same blind spots.

To identify potential responses to promote children’s safety and privacy in the digital age, this study focuses on three main areas of risk to young people’s online well-being:

  • Privacy and data security,
  • Unsafe online interactions, and
  • Unsafe or inappropriate content

These risks are intertwined, as are the solutions. Through comparative international research and consultation with industry and experts, this study identifies a series of potential responses that could improve online safety and privacy for children. These solutions will not eliminate the online risks for children. But just as speedbumps and crosswalks can make it safer for children to navigate their neighbourhoods on foot, so too better design, standards, and policies can improve the safety of the online world; better education and resources can prepare children and parents to assess risks; and stronger institutions can address and prevent harm when it is identified.

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