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Upcoming MOOC on Children’s Rights and Technology in the Digital Age

Deadline for Applications

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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.

The course is articulated in five modules:

Module 1 introduces the main concepts the MOOC will address. Starting with an overview of children’s rights, it then moves to explain the key technologies of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and biometrics as focal points in the MOOC’s discussion of children’s rights and new technologies. It will explore how these technologies impact children in unprecedented ways.

Module 2 focuses on children’s right to privacy and data protection, examining the legal instruments and international recommendations that exist in this regard. It will then provide examples of how technologies interfere with children’s rights to privacy and data protection in areas such as facial recognition, biometric data collection and advertising.

Module 3 delves into the linkages between early-childhood development and new technologies and examines the right to play in the digital age. In addition to providing insights into the legal instruments and recommendations in this field, it will include a case study on smart toys research.

Module 4 explores what the right to education means in the digital era. A legal overview will be provided before examining examples of AI and facial recognition in the classroom in addition to positive examples of educational technology and discussing how these technologies fit into preparing children for the future workplace.

Module 5 investigates positive and negative developments in the field of new technologies and children’s right to health and safety, with particular focus on digital health and child online exploitation.

Certificate of Participation

At the end of the course, participants who have actively participated in at least 4 weekly discussions and successfully completed 5 quizzes will receive a certificate confirming their participation.

Target Audience

We designed this course for participants (students, researchers, educators, children, parents, concerned citizens, politicians, media professionals, tech developers/experts/companies, and governmental/inter-governmental/non-governmental actors) around the world who are actively interested and engaged in children’s rights and how they are considered in relation to technologies that already permeate society, but also those technologies that are in development and how they may impact this particular age group.

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