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Algorithmic Rights and Protections for Children

Call for papers for a special issue of the Journal of Design Science

Published onApr 02, 2019
Algorithmic Rights and Protections for Children

Note: This call for papers is now closed.

Guest Editors:

  • Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab

  • Mimi Ito, UC Irvine Connected Learning Lab

  • Candice Odgers, UC Irvine Connected Learning Lab

Call for Papers:

One in three Internet users worldwide are children and what they see and experience online is increasingly shaped by algorithms. Yet the online world and complex algorithms that drive, direct, and govern children’s experiences have not been constructed with their needs and interests in mind. Children represent an especially marginalized and vulnerable population who are exposed to high levels of poverty and inequality, while being dependent on adults to structure their experiences and opportunities. Big tech and policy makers have a responsibility to consider the rights and needs of children. Instead, the burden is most often placed on families, educators, and community leaders to understand, support, guide, and regulate children’s access to media, information, and social connection.

While a growing body of research has shed light on how algorithms can reinforce racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of injustice and inequality, studies of algorithmic justice and required protections for children are still sparse. If left unattended, children’s digital experiences will continue to diverge, with privileged children reaping the benefits that do exist, while vulnerable and lower-income children experience the ill effects of an algorithmic world. The science of child and youth development is typically left out of technology design and policy considerations. Commercial incentives to build a healthy and equitable Internet for kids are low. Well-meaning data policies and parent strategies intended to protect children have resulted in curtailing the rights of children and creating barriers for the less advantaged and for children who lack advocates and mentors to guide their online activities.

This special issue invites both empirical and conceptual papers from diverse perspectives that explore different facets of this emerging area of inquiry. We also welcome submissions from children and young people. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Implications of children’s engagement with online platforms, conversational agents, and interactive toys

  • Family dynamics around media management and engagement

  • Analysis of data and AI ethics and policy that implicate children

  • Challenges and risks in designing algorithms and platforms for children

  • Innovative designs and solutions for algorithmic justice, learning, equity, and wellness for children

  • Design processes that involve children and families and attend to the wellbeing and the flourishing of children

  • Paradigms and structures to provide appropriate incentives to produce better outcomes for children

  • Levers and strategies for intervention into existing systems and products to change optimizations so that they focus more on benefits for children

Information about Submissions

Proposals should include the following: an abstract of 500-750 words (not including references) as well as background information on the author(s), including contact information and an abbreviated bio that describes previous and current research that relates to the special issue theme. Please submit your proposal through the submission portal on the Issue 7 landing page with your names clearly stated in the document name. Further information on how to submit an abstract can be found in our FAQ. Submit your proposal for review by the date stated in the timeline below. Authors of accepted proposals are expected to develop and submit their original article, for full anonymous ­review, in accordance with the journal's peer-review procedure, by the deadline stated. We welcome traditional academic articles of 5000–7000 words, as well as shorter opinion pieces of 1000–2000 words. In the latter category, we welcome submissions from young people aged 12–18 years of age. Guidelines for manuscripts can be found here.

Authors of papers selected for publication in this special issue of JoDS will be invited to attend an event at the MIT Media Lab in 2020.


Abstract submission deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Notification on submitted abstracts: Friday, July 12

Article submission deadline: January 10, 2020

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