Working Papers

Working Towards a Deeper Understanding of Digital Safety for Children and Young People in Developing Nations

Urs Gasser, Colin M. Maclay, and James G. Palfrey Jr.

Date: May 31, 2010

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This exploratory study is a first output of an ongoing collaboration between the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and UNICEF. It is intended as a contribution towards building a deeper understanding of children’s safety in a digital context in developing nations. More specifically, the objectives of the paper are threefold: First (and foremost), it seeks to raise awareness about issues related to digital safety for youth in developing nations. Second, it aims to provide a tentative map of these issues and give insights into the current state of the respective research based on an exploratory literature review. Third, the paper seeks to outline the contours of a research framework through a series of working hypotheses that might inform subsequent research efforts on these issues by connecting efforts in developing and industrialized nations.

The topic of this paper is challenging along a number of dimensions, including the complexity of the subject of investigation, cultural expectations and tolerance, language barriers, the highly limited availability of data, and limited access to scholarship from developing nations to the extent that it exists. We therefore decided not only to take a collaborative approach to research this paper (see methodology paragraph in paper), but also to release it as a “learning document” by soliciting feedback, comments, pointers to additional materials, etc. At the end of such a participatory period and after additional research on our end, the hope is to publish a revised and extended version of this paper in the format of a white paper.