- GS-2: Policies and politics of developed and developing countries
U.K.’s Children’s Code
Context: Recently, U.K. government brought into effect the Age Appropriate Design Code or the Children’s Code that provides a set of regulations that will make using the digital space safer for children.
What is the Children’s Code?
- The Children’s Code is a data protection code of practice for online services likely to be used by children.
- It sets out 15 standards for online services, including in apps, games, toy and devices and even news services.
- It is rooted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that recognises the special safeguards children need in all aspects of their life.
What are the threats to children online?
- Research shows that within 24 hours of a social media profile being created, children were being targeted with graphic content.
- It shows that services such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are allowing children, some as young as 13 years old, to be directly targeted within 24 hours of creating an account with a stream of harmful content.
- Despite knowing the children’s age, the companies are enabling unasked contact from adult strangers
- These platforms are recommending damaging content, including material related to eating disorders, extreme diets, self-harm and suicide as well as sexualised imagery and distorted body images.
- Further, these recommendations are by no means ‘bugs’ or mistakes in the code. They are designed to maximise engagement, activity and followers — the three drivers of revenue.
- Though not intentionally designed to harm children, they are not currently creating a safe space for them to learn, explore and play
Who does the Code apply to?
- The Code applies to “information society services likely to be accessed by children”.
- This includes apps; programs; search engines; social media platforms; online messaging or internet-based voice telephony services; online marketplaces; content streaming services (like video, music or gaming services); online games; news or educational websites; and any websites offering other goods or services to users on the internet.
- Electronic services for controlling connected toys and other connected devices are also included.
- The code applies to the U.K. based companies and non-U.K. companies that use data of children in the country.
Will children in India benefit from the Code?
- It has the potential to completely transform the way that companies collect, share and use children’s data, requiring them to offer children a high level of privacy protection by default
- UK Code will force tech giants to make the entire architecture child-friendly, and not region-specific alone. If tech giants universalise their safety architecture, children across the world, including in India, will benefit from the Code.
It is high time that the Indian government incorporated child safety into its social media agenda.
Connecting the dots: