Integrating Positive Online Content criteria to the Secure Software Development (SSDLC) process
The 19th edition of Safer Internet Day (Tuesday, February 8, 2022) is a reminder for organisations and industries to work on making Internet safer and better for people of younger ages.
Indeed, today’s organisations and industries provide directly or indirectly digital services to people of multiple age groups – many of those including GenZ, i.e. people born between late 1990s and early 2010’s. Consequently, many of them are in a direct position to design, shape and adapt their platforms, services and content that children and young people interact with on a daily basis, thus having the power to contribute to the development of a safer and better Internet.
As several research efforts (such as this one) have revealed, the financial influence that Gen Z has is being increasing over the years transforming them into a big part of FinTech’s core market. Yet, as most of them grew up during the recession, they enter adulthood with greater financial anxieties, as revealed by related research (e.g. this one).
At the same time, internet-related threats cause extra causes of anxiety, discrimination and multiple other negative situations. An answer to these, started as an EU Safer Internet Day initiative in 2004 and has grown beyond its traditional geographic zone and is now celebrated in approximately 200 countries and territories worldwide.
The initiative included the creation of Positive Online Content criteria, whose aim and importance is focused in giving young Internet users access to high-quality online experiences which can assist and empower them to become active and participatory citizens. Furthermore, it allows for the strengthening and broadening of awareness of positive content concepts across Europe.
The main value that drives this effort is that designers, developers, service providers and content creators should consider how their content, app or service can be:
- Empowering – enables the child to feel confident and as independent as possible in their developing abilities within a safe digital environment.
- Engaging – causes the child to be motivated and inspired.
- Stimulating – encourages the child to feel curious to learn more.
- Safe – provides the child with the space to explore the digital experience at minimum risk.
As such, Positive Online Content is critical for GenZ to go online free from risk of harm, whether this be in terms of content, contact, conduct, or commercial considerations.
In addition, organisations and industries can now include the Positive Online Content criteria through a structured way integrating these to their Secure SW Development process.
The relevant checklist that designers, developers, service and content providers should take into account for ensuring Positive Online Content includes:
- Considering the basics: This includes deciding the target age range, defining the content objectives and benefits
- Providing clear and transparent objectives: Among others, this includes orientating on the target group abilities as well as the development of the cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional aspects.
- Developing stimulating digital experiences: This is related to planning and designing creative, interactive, stimulating, innovative, entertaining and/or educational elements and features.
- Ensuring usability: This starts by considering how the content and service might be accessible through multiple platforms, followed by more specific considerations, such as user-friendly navigation structures etc.
- Developing content and services that are accessible and inclusive: This ensures that special needs and requirements related to vision, hearing, mobility or cognitive aspects are considered when planning, developing and producing the content/service with all participating parties.
- Ensuring content is reliable: As part of this, designers, developers and service providers should consider how the content and service will comply with the relevant legislation or regulations (e.g. personal data protection).
- Ensuring safety is a priority for children: That should include that the content is not harmful by not containing offensive material or other harmful elements (e.g. pornographic, racist, violent, offending, xenophobic content).
- Keeping in mind that the privacy of children is paramount.
- Sensitively developing social media elements and communication features: These could include social networks, chat rooms, forums, guest books, video/picture sharing platforms, messengers etc. As such designers and developers, should consider specific rules and security information on how to use the features safely and if they are offered.
- If relevant, developing the commercial elements in a responsible manner: This includes advertising, sponsoring, online shopping, in-app-purchases etc.
Considering all above items, content and service providers can ensure that their apps and content fit for purpose, while taking measures to ensure that young users and children can go online with reduced risks of being harmed in any way that Internet can facilitate.
At the same time, parents, consumers and educators can also benefit by being better aware of the features they should look out for when choosing online experiences and services for their younger children.
For more information on the positive online content checklists, interested parties can visit the related webpage.
For more information on how to integrate Positive Online Content criteria to your Secure SW Development process contact Netcompany-Intrasoft.
Author: Dr. Emmanouil SERRELIS, Information Security Department Manager, Netcompany-Intrasoft