Twitter
Facebook
ClickBank1

UN Bringing Child Rights Into the Digital Age

2014-09-16-2014091208.49.57.jpg Participants at Day of Discussion consider child rights in the digital age


In 1989 the United Nations passed an important human rights treaty. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was ratified by all countries in the world except Somalia, Southern Sudan and -- believe it or not -- the United States.*

Rights and protections


And even though this document was written before kids started using the Internet, it spells out protections and rights of freedom of expression and access to media for children around the world. Some have defined the rights as the 3 P's: protection, provision and participation. But, as several attendees pointed out, the UN has mostly focused on protection (see Anne Collier's analysis).

Living document and day of discussion

In 1989 the United Nations passed an important human rights treaty. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was ratified by all countries in the world except Somalia, Southern Sudan and -- believe it or not -- the United States.*

Rights and protections

And even though this document was written before kids started using the Internet, it spells out protections and rights of freedom of expression and access to media for children around the world. Some have defined the rights as the 3 P's: protection, provision and participation. But, as several attendees pointed out, the UN has mostly focused on protection (see Anne Collier's analysis).

Living document and day of discussion

Just because the UNCRC predates the commercial Internet, it doesn't mean that it can't be applied to the digital age, just as the more than 200-year-old American Bill of Rights has been interpreted to guarantee freedom of expression and privacy rights for Internet users in America.

The UNCRC is a living document, subject to modern interpretation. But, just in case there is any doubt about its application to the digital world, the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child, an 18-member international body that monitors the implementation of the convention, convened a "general day of discussion on digital media and children's rights" at the UN's sprawling Palace of Nations complex in Geneva.

My ConnectSafely.org co-director Anne Collier and I participated in that meeting, along with about 300 other attendees representing governments, non-governmental organizations (non-profits) and human rights groups from around the world.

After a brief introductory plenary session, attendees divided into two working groups. One focused on children's equal and safe access to digital media and ICT (information and communication technology) and the other on children's empowerment and engagement through digital media.

After several hours of discussion, rapporteurs from both groups summarized the discussions and made some recommendations to be considered by the Committee.

The recommendations -- summarized below -- were divided into four categories: empowerment, access, digital literacies and safety.

Empowerment

  • Empowerment of all children should be founded on a balanced approach between protection and participation where children are the drivers of a safe and participatory digital world.

  • Give children digital literacy and promote digital citizenship.

  • All stakeholders need to understand their responsibilities with the respect to the rights of children in digital media.

  • Different stakeholders need to play different roles: States, parents, families, teachers, civil society, NGOs, private and public sectors and children themselves.

  • Any approach to limit the risks of harm that children face in their digital lives should be balanced against the enjoyment of other rights, including the freedom of expression, right to participation and right to association.


Accessibility

Ensure equal access to digital media and ICT by technology infrastructure ensuring free or low-cost access that is targeted for different groups of children, particularly girls, children with disabilities and other vulnerable groups of children.
Digital literacy

  • Provide digital education to all children, parents, teachers and all those working with and for children and ensure it's good quality.

  • Include online education methods in school programs including children with disabilities.

  • Ensure training in social behavior online -- social literacy.


  • Safety


  • Ensure awareness-raising for children and adults of all the risks and harms.

  • Provide training for law enforcement and others working with children.

  • Ensure legal and self-regulating mechanisms to guarantee safety on the Internet.

  • Develop technological solutions for prevention and protection.

  • Ensure availability of assistance and support, including child-friendly complaint mechanisms, helplines and compassion for victims.

  • Children should play a key role in protecting themselves and their peers against harm.

  • My takeaways


I was gratified to see that the Committee and fellow working group members were sensitive to the importance of rights as well as protection and that there was a general agreement that online access and free expression are critical rights. I was also pleased about the recommendation that children be empowered to "play a key role in protecting themselves and their peers" along with the concept that "children are the drivers of a safe and participatory digital world."

As other attendees pointed out, the discussions were a bit vague on specifics and how these rights might be implemented and there was no consensus on how the vast cultural, political and legal differences between countries should apply to these rights. For example, there are several countries that filter the Internet for all users -- not just children. And even in the United States and Western Europe, it is common for schools to block social media, which I interpret not only as vehicles for free expression, but also freedom of association as guaranteed in the UNCRC. Another limitation of both the UNCRC and the day of discussion was the lack of differentiation by age. The UNCRC defines "child" as people under 18, but as any parent knows, there is a vast difference between toddlers and teenagers and any discussion of rights and protections needs to take these differences into consideration.

*As per the United States -- even though we haven't ratified the Convention (scroll down in this document from Amnesty International for the why), freedom of speech and assembly are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and there is nothing in the Constitution that says these rights are applicable only to adults. Still, the U.S. has a longstanding tradition of giving parents control over their children and giving schools "in loco parentis" controls while children are at school. While no one would question a parent's right and responsibility to supervise their children and protect them from harm, there are families in the U.S. and elsewhere where parents are interpreting those rights in an arbitrary manner. I worry about LGBT youth whose parents are not supportive of young people who are exploring religious or political views that might differ from their parents' beliefs.

Next steps

The recommendations of these working groups will be studied by the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child and then passed on to member states. Some, I suspect, will embrace them while others are likely to ignore them. Most, I'm pretty sure, will interpret them according to local laws and customs, which means that -- even if adopted -- not all of these recommendations will be implemented. Still, it's an important step toward updating the interpretation of the UNCRC so that rights that are guaranteed offline are also applied online.

Internet Governence Forum Attendees Complain About Censorship in Turkey While Some Advocate It for Youth

Censorship is very much on the minds of attendees at this year's Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul. One reason, of course, is because the meeting is being held in a country that has censored the Web. Earlier this year the Turkish government blocked Twitter and YouTube for awhile and continues to block thousands of websites, including some that reportedly have content that goes against government ideology.

But you don't have to live in Turkey, Russia, China or Iran to be affected by censorship. Young people in every country -- including the United States, the United Kingdom and throughout Europe -- face it every day.

Two hundred and twenty-three years after the U.S. passed the First Amendment to its constitution, kids are being censored online in school, in some libraries and in some homes. The stated reason for this censorship is to protect them from "harmful content," but it's not just a matter of blocking porn, hate sites or sites that promote self-harm. Many schools in the U.S., UK and Europe block social media sites, for example, even though Facebook and most other responsible sites have their own policies against so-called harmful content.

Here at IGF, a number of speakers have advocated protecting children from such content for their own good, yet hardly any kids I've spoken with think Internet filtering is either appropriate or effective, except for young children.

Olivia, a 15-year-old attendee from Denmark, made the point better than I can at a session here in Istanbul:

"This is our world, the Internet we're talking about here. You have to be with us in the world. You can't keep us away from it. You have to talk with us about it.... You have to help your children instead of trying to control them." (Quote courtesy of NetFamilyNews.org)


The folks in that workshop applauded that comment but it didn't stop several adults at various sessions from advocating more controls over the types of materials that young people can access.

I didn't get his name, but one attendee from the Turkish government spoke proudly about how his country was blocking "content that is harmful for children," but he never defined what he meant by harmful content.

It’s Time for Schools to Upgrade Both Technology and Pedagogy

2014-08-27-A_Village_Saves_National_Savings_in_Lewknor_Oxfordshire_England_1941_D3661.jpg
Teaching methods, in some schools, haven't changed much since this picture was taken (Creative Commons License)



As students return to school, it's time to think about absolute necessities like pens, paper, school clothes, a laptop or tablet and, of course, a learning network that enables them to interact with fellow students and teachers.

Okay, that network may not yet be mandatory. But an increasing number of teachers are flocking toward "connected learning," which involves changing not only educational methods, but also some fundamental assumptions about the nature of education.

Connected learning

An infographic at ConnectedLearning.tv offers up a definition that refers to connected learning as a model that holds out the possibility of "reimagining the experience of education in the information age." It goes on to suggest that the power of technology be used to "fuse young people's interests, friendships and academic achievements" through hands-on production, shared purpose and open networks.

That's a refreshingly forward thinking definition of the term. For many educators, "connected learning," simply means using the power of the Internet to make it more efficient to bring resources into the classroom. It reminds me of a presentation I saw a few years ago at an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference, in which a smart board vendor demonstrated her product by modeling a teacher-dominated geography lesson, using the smart board in almost the same way teachers have long used chalk boards to display information in a top-down fashion. It struck me at the time that much of today's so-called "technology in education" is nothing more than using 21st-century technology to enhance 19th-century pedagogy.

And that brings me back to "reimagining" education by finding ways to disrupt the processes and power relationships that have so long defined students as both the consumers and products of the educational system rather than co-creators and collaborators.

Student networking

Not all companies are thinking of ways to reinforce old learning models. 1StudentBody (www.1sb.com), a Palo Alto startup run by serial entrepreneur Mandeep Dhillon, is leveraging the power of networking to help students help themselves and their peers.

Dhillon views "peer-to-peer connections" as a powerful way to connect students within and among schools to collaborate in the learning process. His just released app, NoteSnap (initially available only for iPhone and iPad, with an Android version coming), enables students to use their smartphone to take notes in class and, by default, share them with other students. The app lets students use the phone's camera, for example, to take a picture of the classroom's whiteboard to share the content with others in the class. The app automatically cleans up the image to improve readability and immediately shares it with others. It also allows students to ask questions, and there is the option of asking anonymously if you "don't want people to think you're clueless."

I asked Dhillon why students would want to use the app. After all, schools are often competitive, and sharing with other students helps them, but not you. His answer was aspirational. The product is not simply designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of getting a better grade, but reflects his philosophy that learning and work will be increasingly collaborative.

It makes sense to me. In the real world, you're rewarded not for what you know, but how you're able to leverage your knowledge, skills and talents for the benefit of others. Not only are companies increasingly encouraging workers to share their knowledge among colleagues, but there is also a growing open-source movement that encourages competitors to share some aspects of their intellectual property for the benefit of the entire industry and the world at large. In the real world, success is not a zero-sum game where your success depends on other people's lack of success.

I grew up at the tail end of the industrial age and got to live through the information age which, said, Dhillon, is about over now that information has become a commodity. "We're now in the networked age," he said, where what you know is far less important than your ability to use networks to obtain whatever it is you need and share it with others.

Other apps and servcies

There are, of course, other apps aimed at students and educators, including Edmodo, a network of 37 million teachers, students and parents designed to help teachers manage coursework and encourage all users to collaborate. Another app, ShowMe interactive whiteboard lets you use an iPad to create "whiteboard-style tutorials."

Evernote isn't specifically for students, but it does allow users to take notes, snap pictures, save and share Web links and organize and share bits of information.

And, for the more animated students and teachers out there, there is GoAnimate for Schools that lets users create amazing animated videos by dragging and dropping and adding audio dialogue, complete with lip-syncing. One of my favorite features is an animated whiteboard that lets you type in text for your character to write on the board.

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

Let’s Stop Persecuting ‘Auschwitz Selfie Girl’ for Smiling at a Camera

2014-07-25-selfie.jpg
This selfie of a girl in front of Auschwitz has prompted unfair social media outrage.


I grew up Jewish so I'm naturally very sensitive to the horrors that took place at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. I'm also very critical of Holocaust deniers and those who would minimize what the Nazis did to Jews, gays and other "undesirables."

But I think we need to give that young girl who took a selfie of herself at the concentration camp a break. Alabama teenager Breanna Mitchell has been vilified in social media for gross insensitivity for doing what many others have done before her.

I've been to concentration camps and other infamous places including ground zero in New York, Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam and battlefields in the U.S. and other countries were countless people were slaughtered, and I've seen people taking pictures of themselves in front of the scene with a big smile on their face. It's natural. It's what we're taught to do when we stand in front of a camera.

Breanna tweeted and told a TV interviewer (scroll down to watch) that she does "understand what happened there" and had planned to visit there with her dad who died a year before she was able to make the trip.

Had this been a seasoned politician or journalist, I would criticize them (perhaps gently) for misjudgment. But this is a teenage girl who visited the site because she has a strong interest in the history of World War II and the Holocaust. If anything, she should be congratulated for caring about what happened there.

2014-07-25-died.jpg

If I saw her partying at the site or trying to diminish the horror and historical importance of what happened there, I would think she was being insensitive, but smiling? Come on, we're all taught to smile in pictures. I'd like to think I would have the judgement not to smile at such a locale, but I honestly can't swear that I've never posed with a smile for a picture at such an important but horrible place.

It's hard not to agree with her followup Tweet, asking people to "quit tweeting, to quoting, retweeting and favoriting my picture."

2014-07-25-omg.jpg

Video of Breanna explaining on TV

Big Companies Invest in ‘Smart’ Home Technology


2014-07-23-smart.jpg
SmartThings home automation kit


Samsung, according to TechCrunch, is in talks to buy home automation company SmartThings for $200 million. As of my deadline, the deal hadn't been confirmed, but if it goes through, it would put the giant Korean electronics company in direct competition with Apple and Google.

But even if this deal doesn't pan out, you can be sure that Samsung -- along with just about every other consumer electronics company -- will be entering this market.

Although technically the term "home automation" could apply to any labor-saving device, including dishwashers and washing machines, in today's world it means remote control and monitoring of home appliances, lights, doors, security and entertainment systems.

For example, SmartThings sells a $99 hub that connects devices to the Internet so that they can be controlled from your smartphone via a cloud-based service. They also sell a $49 Multi Sensor that can detect the temperature and when "things" (such as doors, drawers or even objects) are opened, closed, moved or change angles. You could place the sensor near your front door to know if it's been opened, which not only helps detect an intruder, but also can let a working parent know that their kid is home from school. The software can even be used to send you an alert if the child hasn't come home by a certain time. You could also use it to monitor if windows have been opened or if someone left the garage door open.

Because these devices are wireless, they're relatively easy to install and, unlike home monitoring services, there are no monthly fees to pay.

The company's website has an amusing video showing how a customer uses his voice to turn on the coffee pot. You can also program the doors to lock as soon as you leave the house or turn on the air conditioner from work so the house is cool when you get home.

There is almost no end to what you can automate using technologies not just from SmartThings, but also from Belkin, Wink (sold at Home Depot) and other companies. Nest, which was purchased by Google* this year for $3.2 billion, currently, makes a "smart" thermostat and smoke and carbon dioxide detector that you can control with your voice or your smartphone. The company hasn't announced other products but, based on Nest CEO Tony Fadell's presentation at the Re/code conference last month, it's pretty clear that they have ambitious plans.

Privacy advocates have expressed concern about Google having access to information collected by Nest devices in people's homes. But in a blog posted at the time of the acquisition, Nest implied that it would never share data with the rest of Google. "Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest's products and services," the blog said. "We've always taken privacy seriously and this will not change."

Still, whether the technology is from Google or any other company, connecting our homes to the so-called "Internet of things" does raise some interesting privacy and security issues.

Apple, too, is jumping into home automation. Its iPhone, iPad and even its iPod touch media player have long been used as controllers for other companies' home automation products. Just about every company in this space has an iOS app along with an Android app to control its products. But at its Worldwide Developers Conference conference last month, Apple announced Home Kit, which is a set of tools to help developers create home automation apps for Apple devices. The technology allows for developers to create apps that share customer data with apps from other developers, assuming it's OK with the customer.

That means any Home Kit app can interact with any other compatible Home Kit device in your home. So your coffee pot and your dishwasher could carry on a conversation, even if they are controlled by devices from different companies. That begs the question of what they would talk about (Maybe the coffee maker would tell the dishwasher that it's time to wash your coffee cup).

While smartphone integration is relatively new to the home automation landscape, there is nothing new about devices that can be remotely controlled from within or even from outside the house. Twenty years ago, I was using X10 devices to control lamps, fans and other devices throughout my home. It wasn't a wireless technology exactly, but sent data through the house's electrical wires to any plugged-in device, so there was no need to string additional wires

I am excited about the developments in home automation and look forward to installing some relatively simple but useful things, like a garage door monitor and electronic house locks that let you lock and unlock the door from a phone or program a code to let workers into the house during a specific period of time.

But there are still some tasks that will require old-fashioned manual labor for the foreseeable future. We have machines to wash and dry our dishes and clothes but, until robots get a lot better, it still takes a human to clear the table, put away the dishes and fold clean laundry.

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

*Disclosure: Larry Magid is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organisation that receives financial support from Google.

SEO Powered By SEOPressor