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Artificial intelligence: the new guardian of children's safety on the internet

84% of children ages 3 to 4 already connect to the Internet in some way. Faced with this problem, AI appears to create a safe digital environment.

Martial Triguero
By Martial Triguero

Concern about the safety of our children on the Internet is a hot topic that is becoming increasingly important in our society. With the rise of device use and almost unlimited access to the web, the dangers that lurk in cyberspace have become a palpable reality for parents and guardians. At this point, the Artificial Intelligence It appears as a promising ally to shield the little ones from online risks. How is the regulatory board moving to integrate these technologies into child protection? Let's see it based on data and case studies.

Artificial intelligence in the sights (for good) of regulators

Ofcom, the UK regulatory body, has assumed a key responsibility under the country's Online Safety Law. This entity not only monitors, but also promotes the responsible use of technology to safeguard the youngest users. To this end, Ofcom has proposed a consultation that will assess how artificial intelligence and other automated tools can play a central role in proactively detecting and removing harmful content on the web.

This initiative appears at a time when data shows a massive connection of children to the Internet from a very early age. For example, it has been revealed in a Ofcom's own investigation, that about 84% of children between 3 and 4 years old already surf the web, and a surprising 24% of children between 5 and 7 years old already own their own smartphones (this is important to understand the urgency of implementing effective measures ).

Mark Bunting, Director of Ofcom's Online Safety Group, has shared that the initial focus of the consultation will be on evaluating the current effectiveness of AI tools in the protection of minors. “We want to ensure that the industry evaluates the accuracy and effectiveness of these tools. Managing risks to freedom of expression and privacy is essential“He mentioned in an interview for TechCrunch. The expectation is that, based on the results of this consultation, clear recommendations can be established and possibly sanctions imposed on platforms that do not meet the standards required to protect children online.

Interesting fact

AI tools are not only being considered to detect explicit or harmful content but also to identify child sexual abuse material, which was previously difficult to trace.

Ultimately, Ofcom's proposal not only seeks to encourage the use of advanced technologies such as AI to combat the dangers of the internet, but also raises a necessary debate about how to balance online safety, privacy and freedom of expression. This is a clear example of how regulators are beginning to play an active role in shaping the future of our digital interaction, putting child protection as one of the most important issues to address.

The challenge of social networks and age

We know they are the digital playground these days, but are they safe for children this young? The answer is complex. Despite age restrictions imposed by popular platforms, a staggering 38% of 5- to 7-year-olds are already active on them.

WhatsApp and YouTube Kids are extremely popular among these young Internet users, but this raises a big question: Are they really prepared to navigate these spaces without proper supervision?

Note to reflect

Although platforms try to do their part, the reality is that technology advances faster than regulations. This takes us into uncharted territory when it comes to child safety online.

The reality of exposure to harmful content

Concentrated child using a smartphone at home, illustrating the early exposure of minors to technology.
Created with Midjourney / edited by tecnoandroid ©

Did you know that there is a huge gap between what children see online and what their parents think they see? (this is more serious than we think...). Recent data reveals that 32% of children between 8 and 17 years old reported having seen worrying content on the internet. However, only 20% of parents are aware of this alarming exposure.

This disconnection can be dangerous. Lack of communication between parents and children about online activities increases the risk that minors will encounter harmful content without adequate support to deal with it.

Some examples of disturbing content that children may encounter include:

  • Cyber ​​bullying
  • Explicit sexual content
  • Extreme violence videos
  • Fraud schemes

(This type of content not only affects emotionally, but can have long-term repercussions on children's development)

Understanding this reality forces us to take more proactive measures to protect our little ones in the infinite digital world. It is essential to implement effective filters and promote adequate parental supervision to minimize these risks.

Implications of new technologies

Ever have you heard about deepfakes? These emerging technologies are being a real headache on the Internet and do not leave aside the area of ​​child safety. Deepfakes are content that looks incredibly realistic, which is a double-edged sword, especially for younger people.

Artificial intelligence, already in the spotlight for its ability to filter harmful content, also has the potential to detect and combat deepfakes.

But here we currently find a big problem: the accuracy of these tools is not yet perfect, which poses an ongoing challenge for developers and regulators.

And the implementation of AI is not only about blocking what is harmful, but about educating young users on how to safely and critically navigate the Internet. Artificial intelligence is not a magic bullet, but it is a powerful tool that, if used correctly, can make significant differences in the lives of our children online.

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Technology veteran with more than 20 years of experience, passionate about mobile devices, home automation and artificial intelligence. In addition to my fascination with movies and series, I have solid experience in server and database administration. Committed to continuous learning, I always seek to stay up to date with the latest technological trends.
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