Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Kate Jones is filling in this week for Emily Taylor.
Ask just about any parent about the impact of technology on their children and they’ll tell you they’re worried, even if most find it near-impossible to identify all the risks, let alone work out how to protect tech-savvy children from them. Online concerns for children include the impact of social media on their mental health; the risks of online grooming of minors by sexual predators; the effect that widespread exposure to pornography has on them; the collection and retention of large amounts of their personal data; and the amount of time they spend on irresistible feeds and games. For many families, tech is a whole new front in the parenting battleground.
It shouldn’t be this way. For the most part, technology has developed with minimal regard for the best interests of the child and maximal consideration of profit. Offline, we treat children differently from adults. By law, children are protected from pornography and shielded from participation in addictive behavior. But many companies operating online treat children, or at least those over 13 years old, in the same way as adults, or else they don’t ask too many questions about age at all.