IoT and child protection: new guidelines produced

iot and child protection
© iStock/Zinkevych

Researchers at Lancaster University have produced a set of guidelines for ensuring children’s safety when using Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

As connected toys and programmable devices become more common, concerns have grown over IoT and child protection, with risks including online bullying, grooming and abuse of children by adults; and a wide range of potential breaches of children’s data. The Lancaster University research team worked with children and experts in child safety to develop a risk assessment methodology for children’s use of connected devices, outlined in their paper ‘A Scenario-Based Methodology for Exploring Risks: Children and programmable IoT’.

Dr Bran Knowles, Lecturer in Data Science at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications, said: “Children who are learning to programme IoT devices still have critical gaps in their understanding of privacy and security. In addition, their parents may also lack technical understanding of IoT, which makes it difficult for them to help ensure their children are managing their privacy and keeping safe.”

The research, which was partially funded by UK Research & Innovation’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, was presented at the Designing Interactive Systems 2019 conference, where it was awarded an Honourable Mention for Best Paper.

Dr Knowles added: “Formal training is available for online safety issues such as social media bullying and sexting, but as yet there is no IoT component to this curriculum. It is essential therefore that the designers of these IoT devices anticipate the full spectrum of contexts in which children may use these devices and adopt strategies that will ensure they have properly considered, and mitigated, the potential safety and privacy risks to children and their families. Our research provides a framework to help designers approach these critical risks with their own devices, while still enabling these devices to have enough functions activated so that they still provide a fun learning experience.”

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