Five ways that organizations can invest in digital trust and safety for children

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Derek E. Baird, Chief Youth Officer, BeMe Health, Sam Dorison, Head of Partnerships and Special Initiatives, BeMe Health

  • More organizations than ever before are confronting how to prioritize child and youth digital trust and safety.
  • Organizations that sustainably lead on trust and safety find ways to build it into their business thesis.
  • There are five areas of focus for organizations looking to invest child digital trust and safety.

More organizations than ever before are confronting how to prioritize child digital trust and safety alongside profits. Companies are becoming more proactive in protecting the digital rights of children, including their right to online privacy and the protection of their data.

Within this environment, the LEGO Group began looking at how it could safely and securely expand into digital play in 2014. Focusing on in-person play since its founding in 1932, the company has invested decades of time and millions of dollars in its reputation as a children’s brand that is trustworthy, safe and responsible, but in 2014 it was at a crossroads. The growth opportunity for digital play was undeniable, as were the significant challenges on the internet which, to put it mildly, were not known to advance the values that LEGO held steadfastly.

So, LEGO went all-in on digital child safety. It strategically continued to prioritize making child trust and safety a cornerstone of its brand, including in digital play. The company adopted a set of Responsible Business Principles rooted in child protection principles and formed a strategic partnership with UNICEF to co-create a Child Online Safety Assessment (COSA).

The last few years have shown that no company can ignore digital trust and safety. Below we highlight five areas of focus for organizations to proactively avoid problems while continuing to pursue their individual KPIs.

1. Make it foundational

The best way to build a product with exceptional digital trust and safety is to incorporate these concepts as early as possible within core operational processes. For startups, they can be built in from the onset. For established organizations, the best time to start is now; retrofitting further in the future will be slower, more costly and more error-prone. To begin, incorporate digital trust and safety into the product pipeline. Though the specifics will vary depending on product team configuration, steps can include allocating responsibility to particular project managers and approving engineering points to be spent on digital trust and safety.

2. Build the expertise

The right foundation is only effective if team members have sufficient knowledge about child digital trust and safety. They must be able to apply this knowledge broadly to decision-making criteria, internal and external messaging and performance evaluations. One tactical step is to require all team members to complete training on the latest data privacy regulations governing minors.

At BeMe Health, 100% of team members – regardless of department or role – are required to complete a SuperAwesome’s KidAware Certificate within their first 30 days. The message is simple: you are not fully onboarded and trusted to do your job until you can prioritize children’s trust and safety.

3. Develop rigorous internal policies

Knowledgeable and motivated team members need rigorous internal policies to apply their training consistently and flag potential risks. One critical step is to map data and clearly articulate who can access information and how it can be used. There is no guarantee that policies will be sufficient or even workable without this current state analysis.

4. Craft accessible terms of service

An organization that excels at digital trust and safety ensures its terms of service are comprehensible to all users. Often, these terms are restatements of internal policies – user data informs feature enhancements, for example. However, they should be accessible – both comprehensive and findable – so the user is empowered to decide whether or not to use the product.

Tactically, organizations can run focus groups with users to assess to what extent the policies are understood by potential users. Prompts can include: “If you were to rephrase this policy in your own words, how would you describe it?” And, “what questions do you have when you finish reading the policy?”

5. Go beyond compliance

Organizations that sustainably lead on digital trust and safety find ways to build it into their business thesis. This is not the first time businesses have confronted new paradigms for a rapidly evolving technological landscape. Value creation occurs when a perceived obligation (e.g. ‘we should have a website’) turns into a true value-creator (e.g. ‘online can be a primary sales channel’). Tactically, leaders can focus on when and how questions with their teams in discussions about digital trust and safety.

History shows that the strongest organizations are adaptable. They win by embracing new technologies and speaking to consumer priorities. With more than 73 million children in the US today and internet access surpassing 95%, the market opportunity is significant for companies that credibly commit to child digital trust and safety and can communicate those commitments.

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