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Digital natives or digital victims: children and the online world

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Keynote address presented at the Connect! Childhood, Wellbeing and Risk event, University of Bath, UK, 22 April 2014.

Keynote address presented at the Connect! Childhood, Wellbeing and Risk event, University of Bath, UK, 22 April 2014.


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  • 1. Digital natives or digital victims? Children and the online world Deborah Lupton, News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra
  • 2.  ‘Arguably, no one is monitored more closely in our society than children and young people.’ Surveillance Technologies and Children report, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, October 2012
  • 3. Bringing interests together digitised children parenting cultures sociology of pregnancy surveillance studies digital sociology
  • 4. Ways to digitise children  Pregnancy/childbirth/parenting websites  Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube  ‘Mummy blogs’  Ultrasounds: 2D and 3/4D  Digital photography/archives  Baby monitors  Nanny cams, webcams in daycare centres & schools  Wearable devices & toys with GPS and bodymetrics trackers  RFIDS  CCTV cameras & fingerprint scanners  Predictive analytics/big data on school performance  Trace data from children’s online use  Software for tracking children’s online use by parents
  • 5. It begins with the positive pregnancy test …
  • 6. Continues with the ultrasounds …
  • 7. and pregnancy tracking devices …
  • 8. Then childbirth …
  • 9. Tracking infant development
  • 10. and biometrics …
  • 11. and all the milestones.
  • 12. Keeping tabs in children’s health …
  • 13. their location …
  • 14. and trying to ensure their safety
  • 15. Into the school years  RFIDs  CCTV cameras (85% of UK schools)  digitised fingerprint scanners  digital tracking of school meals  school tracking of children’s internet use  predictive analytics  educational data-mining  parental monitoring of SMS messages
  • 16. Digital educational tools valorised
  • 17. Meanwhile, concern is growing  Childhood obesity  Cyberbullying/trolling  Paedophiles/stalkers  Mental health concerns  Social skills  Loss of face-to-face contact  Self-esteem  Over-sharing
  • 18. Discourses of contemporary parenting  Intensive parenting  Parents as responsible for children’s wellbeing and health  The desire to manage risk/control fate
  • 19. Discourses of childhood  The precious child  The vulnerable child  The uncivilized child  The pure child
  • 20. Discourses of digital technologies  Big data as key to information  Tracking devices as accurate and producing valuable data  Children as digital natives  Digital tech as saviour and threat
  • 21. Things to think about  Children’s privacy, dignity and consent  The over-monitored child  Children’s capacity to develop digital literacy  Surveillance as a form of control  How big data will be used  How predictive analytics will shape futures  The permanence of digital data archives

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