The only show in town

Recently I took part in a couple of events attended by high level professional child welfare and child development experts from across Europe, EU and non-EU. A great crowd.

I thought I spotted someone at the second event whom I had met at the other one. Turns out she hadn’t been at the first event. I apologised for  my mistake and casually remarked how I was now starting to meet a whole new raft of people who had never previously been part of the “cyber set”.

She came back straight away saying

These days cyber is the only show in town.”

I was almost deafened by the sound of the penny dropping.

Of course, her statement was not meant to be taken entirely literally but it certainly showed how core elements of the children’s workforce now appreciated the centrality of digital spaces in the lives of young people. And this individual was clear that the work of the Council of Europe had been of major importance in bringing cyber to the mainstream.

For ages one of my lines in presentations I give to adults who work with kids has been

“If you don’t get cyber it will be hard for you to do  important bits of your job properly because it means you don’t get how children are living today.”

The “cyber set” as currently constituted is going to disappear to be replaced by elements of the mainstream of the children’s workforce and, as the novelty of digital wears off, by academics more associated with research into children’s welfare, child development and children’s lives than with the ins and outs of privacy settings, police procedures and other (important) minutiae. This has implications not just for the children’s workforce but also for the  regulatory framework within which we will all have to operate going forward.

Of course, there will always remain a need for a specialist focus on parts of digital but the field will be more crowded, less lonely, less nerdy, less exotic. Which is how it should be.

I am tempted to end by saying “Welcome to my world”, but maybe it should be “Glad we finally met.”



About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International and is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John is now or has formerly been an Adviser to the Council of Europe, the UN (ITU), the EU and UNICEF. John has advised many of the world's largest technology companies on online child safety. John's skill as a writer has also been widely recognised.
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