Digital Children

by | Sep 23, 2019 | ICT4D, Identity |

In the majority of the discussions regarding digital, technology, identity and data, the discussions tend to focus on or assume adults are involved in decision making. Children, especially children under 10, are rarely talked about except when it comes to various studies done on negative affects of technology on them.

Yes, we have some ‘real-world’ examples of legal frameworks like guardians that can help us think through how issues like digital identity for children. Yet, while guardianship may help enable systems to create digital identities for children, I wonder if we have stopped long enough to ask what the purpose is.

Here in the UK, we have ‘red’ books for each of our kids. These books are given at birth and are updated with all kinds of medical and developmental check ups as a child grows. Lots of vital information is contained within. There is something powerful about the physical book, something symbolic and wonderful. And yet, I’m all for, at minimum, having a digital copy of it as well to help with loss, moving around the country, and frankly the forgetfulness that comes with being sleep-deprived new parents. However, I realise I live a privileged life.

In my humanitarian work, we, far too often, still interact with child-headed households, sometimes as young as 10 year’s old. Often, we meet these families in war torn communities, where the digital infrastructure and access is poor at best.

Talking about digital identity, data governance, digital rights, and so on in this context is radically different than in Oxford or Ottawa. It feels to me like our whole approach might need to be different. The legal guardian framework may help us with part of the solution, I feel it leaves us wanting as it generally assumes not only that laws exists, but they are actually enforceable and enforced.

And yes, I realise these are ‘edge’ cases, but if we design for the edge, it will work for the privileged and we have a chance of reducing inequality.

I don’t have the answers yet, but something to ponder perhaps?

Photo by Hermes Rivera


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