Intelligent Risk Management in a Mobile Online Environment

3 September 2014 - A Workshop on Other in Istanbul, Turkey

Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions

Children and youths are accessing the Internet increasingly via mobile devices. A reliably available broadband infrastructure anywhere and high usability of devices like Tablet PCs and Smart Phones are the enablers of the fast growing mobile Internet usage among children and youths. This development raises new questions and challenges for parenting. Parents and other adults in charge of minors are asking for technical support to protect their children from unwanted encounters with harmful content and potentially risky contact with strangers. But at the same time children and youths themselves are holding fundamental human rights like privacy and freedom of speech that must be respected. With parental control as it is provided by technical tools often a high degree of monitoring of children's usage habits comes along that should be seen as intrusion into privacy and is therefore intolerable. Intelligent risk management in a mobile online environment should comprise both: protection of children and empowerment of youths by appropriate educational approaches and adequate technical means.

Dr. Claudia Lampert from Hans-Bredow Institut gave a short report on recent research findings in a study, where they have done interviews with children and youths and their parents regarding the young peoples' usage of mobile devices. They have observed that children now start to use the internet on mobile devices at an earlier age, on average that is 8.5 years in Germany. Another result is an increased rate of parents who actively mediate safety issues of their children. That is important because especially younger children seek support by their parents while elder youths look for advice from their peers. Based on their study results they recommend to build on the different groups' strength, enabling parents to guide smaller children while at the same time empowering teenagers to support their peers.

Yuliya Morenets from the NGO TaC – Together against Cybercrime informed about the vulnerability of special target groups, f. e. young people with low educational level, poor financial background or broken families. They have asked youths about feeling endangered and found out that identity theft is high on the priority list of young peoples' concerns, they are mostly worried of loosing personal data, then bullying and grooming come second and third. Yuliya puts the focus on the need for special attention to those youths that do not have the resilience to cope with risks and threats on the internet themselves.

Thus she opened the floor to the two young men from the klicksafe youth panel, Lennart Nickel and Luca Troncone. Both are in their next to last class at German highschool and they stressed communication around the world and borderless resources of information as most beneficial on the internet. Nonetheless they were worried about the dropping of face-to-face communication and the loss of emotional engagement coming along with that fact. As an important means to protect themselves as well as others they mentioned trust. Nonetheless they stated that for younger children it is not so easy to decide on their own how much time they should spend online and which content they consume. This initiated a debate with the plenary on an appropriate age when young people should take over responsibility for their online habits and behaviour.

Sabine Verheyen, MEP stated that it is a legal obligation to parents to educate and guide their children, albeit the responsibility varies as the child grows up. And this is true for the virtual world like for the real world. A representative of Microsoft added that identical to the real world parents need to take care of their children in the virtual world, educate them and guide them. As each child is unique in terms of maturity the parents have to make decisions accordingly.
Lennart Nickel responded that the problem is that many children are more media-savvy than their parents, so this poses a challenge today. However, in 5 – 10 years then-to-be parents will have grown up with the Internet themselves and will overall be more aware of the dangers and difficulties and more able to help.

Then the moderator stepped in explaining that as in the title of the workshop "intelligent risk management" means addressing the risks according to the individual needs with measures tailored to the respective target group. She handed over to Abhilash Nair from Northumbria University who talked about children's rights to privacy and freedom of expression and parents responsibility for their child's well-being. Although children as well as adults are holders of basic human rights none of these rights are unconditional. He stated that there might be reasonable restrictions also for the best benefit of the child.

This led to the next speaker's topic what role parental control tools play. Clemens Gruber from Stiftung Digitale Chancen presented the main findings from the Sip-Benchmark study, an evaluation of the usability and effectiveness of parental control tools carried out in the Safer Internet Programme on behalf of the European Commission. He recommended being careful not to call such technologies a solution to the problem, when the average underblocking rate i. e. unwanted websites coming through despite the filter's settings is about 45.6 % and the overblocking rate is about 17.7 %. In general tools for mobile devices perform even less well than those for the classical PC and there is definitely a need to improve the effectiveness as well as the usability of such products; more detailed results are to be found at

As a producer of such tools Myla Pilao from TrendMicro stepped in explaining that especially mobile usage is threatened by a huge amount of attacks in various form such as unwanted adverts via text messages or data infringement via malicious applications. She pointed out the need to address especially mobile devices although they are the smallest gadget in our hands they might pose us to the most critical risks in the online environment.

As the last speaker on the panel the co-host of the session, Marco Pancini, elaborated on Google's strategies for family safety. With the new version of Chrome it becomes easier to control the experience for families on their platforms, particularly on Android. Due to the fact that most engineers at Google are parents themselves knowing that the job of a parent is not the easiest job they have been working on a solution to safeguard inexperienced users either those of young age or the older generation. There we provide the opportunity to have a shared profile where one user, f. e. the parent, can decide which websites are appropriate for the user they safeguard.

Then the appreciate inquiry session was opened with the question what they appreciate most on the current situation of using mobile devices to access the internet. Lennart Nickel pointed out that at the age of 17 nearly all youths seem to know what websites are appropriate and where to find good content, although this might be difficult for younger children. Luca Troncone added that they have that model of media godfathers and -mothers, i. e. teenagers who are trained to guide the media usage of younger students. Jutta Croll pointed out that to her knowledge the solution built in Chrome could also be used for peer education and was supported in that by Marco Pancini who confirmed that it’s a model appropriate for any safeguarding either in a family or any other relationship. Stressed by Jutta Croll and Abhilash Nair was the need for a consensual agreement on the shared profile, although the latter argued that privacy is not valued the same in all countries and some people have a different understanding of the concept of privacy than others.
Claudia Lampert added that out of the young people they had interviewed – aged 6-17 years – especially the older ones were in due consideration of their privacy and the risk of personal data infringement. When facing a difficult situation they were looking for their parents as partners to solve the problem together. Yuliya Morenets stressed in addition the role older siblings can play also for especially vulnerable children who might not turn to their parents.
As a remote participant Amelia Gowa from IMPACT referred to parents and educators as a valuable resource in making children resilient to cope with risks and threats in the online world. Equipped with the technical experience they should be able to impart the general skills and translate their wisdom from the offline world into the younger generation's online environment, not to forget the important role also peers can play. From the floor good experience with peer education performed by so called youth moderators in Georgia was mentioned.
Then from the audience potential health damage to children using computers and mobile devices were addressed. As none of the panellists would take the question Jutta Croll referred to longstanding experience in promoting access to the internet for all age groups she would not deny that there might be risks. But especially with new technical devices, f. e. touch screens where you can enlarge the fonts with a swipe, which can be used even by handicapped people we face a development towards more usability and thus less risks for unhealthy consequences of the usage.
For a final statement she asked the panellists to focus the two aspects of the appreciative inquiry session that are 'Envisioning, what might be' and 'Innovating, what will be' that had not been addressed sufficiently in the debate before. These recommendations are laid down in the next section of this report.

Conclusions drawn from the workshop and possible follow up actions

- The average age of children going online with mobile devices is decreasing permanently. But research findings indicate that particularly younger children are less familiar with the functionalities and thus are also less skilled to activate the respective privacy setting on their mobile devices to control their own online usage and secure their private data.

- We need to think of children's rights from a child perspective. As privacy is a fundamental human right given to children by birth we will need to ensure that right inures to the benefit of the children. Although the right to privacy is not unconditional and there might be set restrictions in due consideration of the best interest of the child.

- Technical parental controls are supportive but there is room for improvement and so far they should not be seen as a stand-alone solution to child online protection.

- Parents and the family at whole need to ready for media education, for understanding the children's online usage habits and behaviour, for translation of the adults' wisdom from the offline world to online concepts and for a shared beneficial internet experience.

- Vulnerable children and youths need special attention as they are more likely to be heavy, but unskilled users of social media and social games thus exposing themselves to potential risks and threats.

- Freedom of access to all information on the internet is claimed as a natural entitlement by older teenagers.

- Peer education is crucial and young people need to be trained professionally for that role.

- Intelligent risk management in a mobile online environment does mean shared responsibility of all stakeholders, parents and educators, youths themselves as well as service providers. Intelligent risk management needs to built on each group's strength, encouraging parents and other adults in charge of minors to protect younger children and empowering older children and teenagers to cope with potential risks themselves and to educate their peers.

Estimation of the overall number of participants present at the workshop


Estimation of the overall number of women present at the workshop

about half of the participants were women

Extent to that the workshop discuss gender equality and/or women’s empowerment

it was not seen as related to the workshop’s theme and was not raised

A brief summary of the discussions in case that the workshop addressed issues related to gender equality and/or women’s empowerment

Gender issues were not in the focus nonetheless there were mentioned some differences in young peoples Internet usage related to their gender, as for example boys are more likely to spent much time playing online games while girls more often use social networks extensively.

Reported by

Jutta Croll / Johanna Preuß