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Ensuring Child Safety Online: The Role of Trust & Safety Teams

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Children are now growing up with technology as an integral part of their lives. With the increase of smartphones, tablets, and internet-connected devices, it is important for parents, educators, and technology companies to prioritize children’s online safety. This shared responsibility requires collaboration, best practices, and strategies to create a secure and user-friendly virtual environment. By implementing Trust & Safety measures, we can empower children to navigate the online world safely and protect them from potential risks.

The Importance of Children’s Online Safety

The prevalence of technology in children’s lives cannot be ignored. Studies have shown that a significant percentage of children have access to smartphones and tablets, making them more vulnerable to online risks. Cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content, online predators, and privacy breaches are just a few of the potential dangers children may face in the digital space. These risks can have long-lasting negative consequences, affecting their mental well-being and overall development.

According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, a considerable number of teenagers are constantly connected to the internet through various devices. This highlights the need for proactive measures to ensure their safety and protect them from online threats. Let’s explore some key statistics that shed light on the magnitude of the challenges children face online:

  • 35.5% of middle and high-school students in the United States have experienced cyberbullying.

  • More than 50% of children between the ages of 10 and 12 have been exposed to inappropriate online content.

  • 60% of children aged 8-12 across multiple countries are exposed to one or more forms of cyber risk.

Why Children are Vulnerable to Online Threats

Children, especially the youngest and teenagers, are particularly susceptible to online threats due to their limited experience, vulnerability and lack of awareness about the consequences of their actions. Additionally, their cognitive and emotional development makes them more prone to manipulation and exploitation in the digital space.

It’s helpful to remember the Four C’s: Contact, Content, Conduct, and Commercialism. 

These categories encompass the key risks that children may encounter while navigating the digital world.

  • Contact: Contact risks pertain to interactions and communications with others online, including strangers and peers. These individuals can include child predators, fraudsters, criminals, terrorists, or even adults pretending to be children
  • Content: Content risks relate to the type of material children may encounter online, which can be inappropriate, explicit, or harmful. This includes profanity, sexual content or nudity, violence, and animal cruelty. 
  • Conduct: Conduct risks involve the behavior of children themselves while online. This includes bullying, self-harm activities, dangerous viral challenges, and encouragement of eating disorders. 
  • Commercialism: Commercialism risks are associated with the marketing and advertising practices targeting children online. This includes signing up for inappropriate marketing messages, making inadvertent purchases, or providing access to personal data.

Trust and Safety for a Safer Digital Future

To effectively protect children online, Trust & Safety teams can employ a combination of tools, procedures, and processes. Here are five key strategies that can help ensure child safety in the digital space:

1. Implement Tough Policies Focused on Children

Implementing policies focused on children’s safety involves a structured approach that covers various aspects of online interaction. To create those policies it is important to : 

  • Define clear objectives.
  • Ensure compliance with relevant laws and standards.
  • Collaborate with experts and seek input from child safety organizations.
  • Customize policies for platform-specific risks.
  • Implement strict age checks.
  • Clearly state data usage policies.
  • Moderate content and filter inappropriate material.
  • Set respectful interaction rules.
  • Prevent cyberbullying by establishing strict anti-bullying measures.
  • Provide tools for parental controls through monitoring and restriction.
  • Ensure age-appropriate content.
  • Implement easy reporting mechanisms.
  • Educate users and guardians.
  • Have protocols for emergencies and incident response.
  • Regularly review and update security measures.
  • Stay current with evolving risks.
  • Enforce policies effectively.
  • Communicate safety measures openly.

2. Establish Subject Matter Expertise

A Subject Matter Expert (SME) in children’s online safety is an individual who possesses in-depth knowledge and expertise in safeguarding children while they navigate the digital world.  A SME should have a deep understanding of the digital landscape, including knowledge of popular platforms, apps, and emerging technologies. They should be aware of the potential risks associated with these platforms and how children interact with them.

This expertise encompasses a broad range of topics related to online safety, including understanding digital risks, implementing protective measures, and educating children, parents, educators, and communities about responsible online behavior. 

3. Apply Safety by Design Principles

“Child Safety by Design” is a principle that involves proactively considering and incorporating safety features and measures into the design and development of products, platforms, and services targeted towards children. This approach helps create a safer online environment for children from the outset. 

4. Utilize On- and Off-Platform Intelligence

Trust & Safety teams should leverage both on- and off-platform intelligence to proactively identify and deter potential risks. By gathering proactive intelligence from the dark and open web, teams can understand impending threats and take action to prevent harm before it occurs.

By combining both on- and off-platform intelligence, we create a robust safety framework for children online.

5. Scale with Contextual AI

Contextual AI monitors online behavior in real-time, detecting and blocking inappropriate content, identifying potential risks, and providing tailored educational resources. It adapts to evolving threats, creating a dynamic safety net for children online. It functions by understanding the context of online interactions, allowing it to make informed decisions about potential risks and safety measures.

By employing Contextual AI, we create a dynamic and intelligent system that provides personalized and real-time protection for children online. It serves as a vigilant guardian, adapting to individual needs and evolving online threats. This technology acts as an invaluable tool in ensuring a safer online experience for children.

Conclusion

Child safety online is a shared responsibility that requires the collective effort of individuals, families, educators, communities, and technology companies. Trust & Safety teams play a critical role in ensuring child safety by understanding the risks children face, implementing policies, leveraging subject matter expertise, utilizing intelligence tools, applying safety by design principles, and harnessing contextual AI. By working together and prioritizing child safety, we can create a safer digital environment for children to thrive and explore.

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