Course dates: From 1 March to 4 April 2021. Free enrolment until 14 March 2021.
More often than not, children are seldom considered as target users when the latest and greatest technologies are developed, but in many cases they become target subjects. Digital technologies – such as artificial intelligence software, biometric recognition systems, and algorithmic information silos – have already shifted the dynamic of many homes, classrooms, and multimedia platforms, but is the child’s best interest central to these experiences? This MOOC will take a deep dive into just how often children are exposed to these futuristic, and sometimes problematic, technological developments and investigate what that means for a vulnerable group that may not fully understand the implications – be they positive or negative – or meaning of consent.
In Disney World in the United States, children are now required to scan their fingerprints in order to gain access to the rides. With products such as YouTube Kids and Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition being targeted towards children, Smart Toys are being utilized as babysitters. Refugee children are being registered on the blockchain in order to access UN humanitarian aid. We already see China placing robots with facial recognition in their classrooms to read students’ faces and determine whether or not they are understanding the day’s lesson. Microchips and bio stamps, including digital tattoos, that measure an array of vital signs are being used to monitor children’s health conditions.
There are many questions to consider concerning how these technologies will shape our tangible world, but what about how they shape the minds and behaviors of the coming generations? Due to the rapid evolution of technologies, it is vital to continually analyse and hypothesise the impacts they are having or will have on children. There are not enough questions being asked of those who are developing or allowing (by way of lack of regulation) these technologies to permeate both the public and private spaces. Furthermore, not only is there a wide knowledge gap in relation to children’s rights and technology, but there is a great disconnect between the users and the experts. Better educating the masses about how technology can positively and negatively influence children will create a more informed debate on critical next steps for how we choose to shape the future of our society.
By way of a MOOC, we aim to provide a coherent overview of the current discussions, regulations, and known implications of children’s relationships to technology in the digital age. We also aim to close the gap in knowledge and a lack of accessibility of existing knowledge to a wider audience. Through a human rights approach, this project will play a role in promoting a more ethical, human-centric, and accessible tech-infused future, considering the coming generations may not have a say in what they have inherited. It is critical that we call attention to this issue now, while we still have the ability to moderate technological implementation as it continually seeps into our everyday lives. We want to challenge the diverse audience of our MOOC to be critical consumers and informed advocates for children’s rights in the digital age.
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