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Davis in Facebook summit on child safety

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Captive audience: Katie Davis delivering her speech at Facebook in May

A Bermudian researcher and university lecturer will take part in Facebook’s first summit on the safety of young people in the digital age.

Katie Davis, who built an international reputation for her work on digital media and young people, will collaborate with a team of top researchers at the Youth Wellbeing Research Summit at the social media giant’s offices in New York next month.

Dr Davis said: “The subject of the summit is youth online safety and understanding the relationship between media technologies, youth development and wellbeing.

“All of the researchers will come together and see what Facebook is doing, respond to it and offer suggestions.

“We will brainstorm together on what are the best practices. Facebook has come under a lot of criticism lately, but they are doing a lot to address young people’s safety and wellbeing.”

Dr Davis, a former Bermuda High School pupil, gave a presentation at Facebook offices in May on safety on the web.

She said: “I worked with their education and product development teams focusing on Messenger Kids.

“It’s a really interesting development as it was designed to create a safe space for kids to practise safe internet use in the context of their family members and friends. They can only message approved contacts.

“I also encouraged my audience to consider how they might design for moderate technologies. Instead of wanting kids to use more and more Facebook, how about encouraging moderation?”

Dr Davis recently gave a speech to 700 school principals and teachers in Santiago, Chile, and another at Entel, the South American country’s largest telecommunications company.

She works at the University of Washington in Seattle and will be a visiting scholar at the Hasso Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam in Germany on a sabbatical.

Dr Davis, identified as a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science, has won more than $2 million to fund her research.

The cash included $885,000 from the National Science Foundation to fund research into science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and $385,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the ConnectedLib project, which helps librarians incorporate digital media,

She was also given $450,000 for NatureCollection, an app designed to encourage children to explore nature.

Dr Davis said it was essential for parents and guardians to keep track of emerging technology and applications to safeguard children.

She added: “I was excited to learn that, in addition to Government’s Cyber Tips, which goes around to the schools, the schools are really taking the initiative.

“Mount Saint Agnes has become a Common Sense Media-certified school. Common Sense Media is probably the biggest organisation worldwide which rates different media geared towards kids for apps, videos, games, movies and TV shows. It gives parents a guide.”

Dr Davis said: “I know that there is a lot of fear among Bermudian parents. The apps are changing so quickly. Tomorrow, there may be a new app that presents new challenges.

“The challenge for parents and teachers is that they won’t be able to anticipate all the dangers but they can constantly talk with children and consult Common Sense Media, whose job it is to keep on top of all the latest developments.

“Providing children with a training-wheel online environment is a great way for parents to maintain that control when they are 10 or 11 and get them used to engaging safely and responsibly about troubling things they may encounter online.

“When they do get to 13, 14 and 15 and they are online more on their own, they have those lessons they can carry with them.”

Katie Davis delivering her speech at Facebook in May
Katie Davis