I’ve said that this book is not intended to ‘teach’ children about privacy. It is completely fine if a child reads Boris the BabyBot and all she gets out of it is a fun story.
But there is growing awareness of the challenges around children’s digital privacy — and ensuring that children are equipped to make informed decisions about their relationship with technology*. So if this story does spark a conversation between a child and a grown-up about privacy, I wanted to put together some material to help that conversation happen.
Children in earlier stages of development (especially under the age of 7) may not yet have all the cognitive tools to imagine and grapple with the abstract ideas of digital privacy – to the surprise of no parent ever. And that’s okay! But here are a few games to start building their awareness and curiosity.
Activity: Where’s the BabyBot?
Hide your copy of Boris the Babybot somewhere in a room. Ask your child to find the BabyBot (start easy with the book in plain sight). Try hiding the book in a tricky place. If you can see the BabyBot, the BabyBot can see you. This should be a fun “I Spy” sort of game, nothing menacing.
Activity: Scanning Faces
Gather a few pictures of friends or family. Cover part of the faces with strips of paper. Can your child still tell who is in the picture? What if you can only see the eyes? What about only the mouth?
Activity: Spot the BabyBot cameras!
When you’re out and about with your kiddo, make a habit of pointing out security cameras as “BabyBot cameras”. The idea is simply to raise awareness of cameras in public places. Make a game of seeing how many you can spot before you get home.
General Mischief: Make a BabyBot mask
Download a BabyBot mask here, to be coloured in and cut out. Go scan some stuff!
This LSE-hosted website has resources for children, parents and educators about digital privacy. It was developed by a group of academics, including Professor Sonia Livingstone, based on workshops with children in the UK aged 11-16. (The website is currently http only.)
This is South Africa-based parental advisory firm has several free resources for parents, including guidelines for drafting a ‘Digital Family Alliance’ – which is essentially shared agreement about how technology will be used in the household.
In case you’re a grown-up looking for digital security advice for yourself, here are a few resources I keep on hand:
How to Protect Your Digital Privacy (New York Times)
This article is a short and decent starter guide to securing your device and software against intrusion.
Digital Detox Kit (Tactical Tech)
This guide offers users a set of simple and practical steps to improve your digital privacy, limit data collection on your devices, and adjust your relationship with your tech.
Surveillance Self-Defence Guide (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
This is a best-in-class offering of digital security tutorials and advisories – from encrypting your hard drive to encrypting your email.
It’s pretty hardcore, but this site offers really thought-provoking and practical options to transition to a more open-source and secure digital ecosystem, one step at a time. In particular, I like the exhaustive list of alternatives to Google products. As the BabyBot reminds us: resistance is worthwhile!
One last thing:
There’s no nifty guide for this, but facial recognition – as demonstrated by Boris the BabyBot – is an invasive surveillance technology that packs serious risks of abuse, discrimination and repression. There aren’t any short-term, general-application methods to protect yourself and your family against facial recognition: the only viable defence against this technology is collective action. If anyone reading this needs to hear it: say no to facial recognition technology!
*See, for example: Livingstone, S. Stoilova, M. and Nandagiri, R. (2019) Children’s data and privacy online: Growing up in a digital age. An Evidence Review. London: London School of Economics and Political Science. (PDF)