What organizations can do to create safe Digital solutions for young people

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Many companies today offer products used by young people and this number is growing every day. Bringing these products to market requires an approach that is different from that of conventional products. This blog will explore the various ways in which this can be done.

Why is exposure to digital solutions a point of concern, especially for youth?

People are exposed to hundreds of digital solutions without even consciously realizing it. We define digital solutions as offerings that are essentially intangible in nature and exist in digital form as products or services, such as websites, mobile apps, software, online games, e-books, streaming platforms, etc.

An individual’s understanding of the entire gamut of the digital world and where he or she fits in it in terms of digital personalities and digital citizenship, is called digital intelligence or DQ.

A lack of awareness, or low DQ, is exactly what makes young people more vulnerable to all kinds of risks. The ease with which young people trust technology is exactly what often makes them more prone to the threats posed in the online world.

As a company bringing digital solutions to the market, you have a responsibility to take this into account and act as a responsible organization when it comes to delivering digital services to our youth.

Children and teenagers today face an increased risk of misuse of personal information acquired through digital channels

We identify two main kinds of risks that affect youngsters – personal risks and financial risks. Personal risks include cyber-bullying, exposure to hate speech, exposure to violent content, misuse by marketing companies, addiction to gaming, ideological persuasion and radicalization, and misuse of personal information by child traffickers. Financial risks on the other hand include threats from hackers, malware, phishing attacks, Trojans, and ransomware that pose a threat to the finances of youngsters.

One way to prevent young people from both risks is to improve digital education and spread awareness of possible online threats. There are also a number of technological solutions and apps that help parents track the phone and media activity of their children. These solutions are capable of limiting the amount of time children spend on specific websites, filtering the content and providing real-time notifications to parents. For example, the Kaspersky SafeKids App allows parents to control their children’s phones through a dedicated dashboard. A digital tracking solution that tracks the movement of the wearer and allows marking of safe and unsafe zones can help to improve safety. These stand-alone solutions are a good way to reduce the exposure of personal risks faced by youngsters. An alternate solution could be to incorporate these measures in solutions from inception Any website or application that anticipates children being exposed to inappropriate content can put in place measures to detect the actual age, rather than simply flashing a statutory warning or asking a cursory question about the age of the user. For example, Google Play’s Parental Control feature allows parents to restrict the content and apps that can be downloaded or purchased. Similarly, Netflix allows users to set up hard controls (requires a 4 digit pin to be entered to view content rated above certain maturity level) and soft controls (separate profile for children).

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This can be true for finance-related applications as well. Numerous banks and financial institutes all over the world are creating banking products targeted specifically towards the youth. There is also a tremendous amount of use of payment gateways and apps for digital payments. Google Pay explicitly points out the direction of money transfer to simplify distinguishing send and receive requests for users. Its security infrastructure detects fraud and alerts users before making transactions. It also provides features such as block user and report as spam. Collaboration between banks and fintechs to build smart solutions can be a viable alternative to help achieve the objective of improved financial security. For example, JP Morgan Chase has collaborated with Plaid to implement measures to protect customer-sensitive data.

What are the methods of incorporating improved safety features in digital solutions for the youth?

The first step would be to think from the perspective of incorporating digital safety, right from the design stage of the solution. Creating empathy maps around the concerns of parents, and the actions that young people would typically take, should help understand the various checks and systems to incorporate while designing the solution. This would help to improve the range of security-related features that can potentially be incorporated in any solution.

Secondly, testing the solution with different youth groups would give a good idea of the effectiveness of the security measures incorporated. Global solutions would need to be tested across geographies, as cultural nuances would play a major role in terms of security. Moreover, incorporating feedback received from the youth and parents on how safe the solution feels to use can be used to iterate and improve upon the solution created. Whatsapp has made privacy and security a unique selling point using its end-to-end encryption feature.

Thirdly, the power of analytics can be leveraged to build better solutions. Tracking the past activity of young users on a website or app can give tremendous amount of information around the causes of cyber threats. Machine learning algorithms can be used to build models by leveraging historic data on youth digital behavior. These can then be used for preventive measures by issuing alerts in real time. Google Pay uses a machine learning based scam prevention model to display warnings to users. Also, incorporation of dashboards indicating the digital well-being of users on specific apps and platforms can be of great help. These dashboards can include statistics around the time spent, allow goal-setting and provide timely progress reports. For example, Facebook allows users to track the amount of time they spend online through the Your Time On Facebook feature.

How can non-collaborative parties and digital predators be dealt with?

Governments of various countries are stepping in to ensure a robust mechanism to deal with digital predators. According to a World Economic Forum report, the German government imposes financial penalties on social media companies if they fail to reduce the volume of abusive content. On similar lines, Israel has launched a tool that uses text analysis and searches social media sites for words, phrases and symbols that are indicators of possible anti-Semitic content.

Building third-party tools that enforce security through methods such as firewalls, encryption, data governance, passwords, and biometrics can also be used to address possible threats.

All these measures together can help in building better and safer digital solutions for the youth of today and contribute towards a digitally safer tomorrow.

Ludvig Daae is a Digital Strategy and IT Operating Model expert and is head of the Dutch Digital Advisory practice. You can contact him at Ludvig.daae@capgemini.com or +31(0)30-6892760

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