Children are spending more time in digital environments than ever, yet laws and policies haven’t kept pace in protecting them there, writes a team of researchers in a new perspective in the journal Science.
“Children are not miniature adults,” the article opens, noting children’s developmental vulnerabilities when it comes to using apps and programs that may appeal to their “impulsivity, underdeveloped decision-making capacities, impressionability, naivety, and susceptibility to peer influence.”
To address the quickly evolving digital space, the researchers say, there’s a need for scientists and law and policy specialists to join together to design and conduct scientific studies that can address timely questions about how video games and online apps affect children, then translate the resulting findings into effective regulations.
The article arose from a connection formed at Penn between corresponding authors Michal Gilad and Nizan Geslevich Packin, both of whom earned doctorate degrees from Penn Carey Law School. They have since launched the Multidisciplinary Center of Childhood, Public Policy & Sustainable Society, where Gilad serves as executive director. Packin has dual appointments at the City University of New York and Haifa University.
The two reached out to neuroscience experts Gideon Nave of Penn’s Wharton School, with whom Packin attended high school, and Diana Fishbein of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to push their message and research forward. Penn Today met with the Science article’s four authors to learn about their motivations to address this issue, the gaps that exist in the science and policy when it comes to children online, and the new partnerships they hope will emerge to keep up with this rapidly changing area of concern.
Diana Fishbein is senior scientist and director of translational neuroprevention research at the University of North Carolina Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, a research professor in Penn State University, and president of the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives.
Michal Gilad is executive director and co-founder of The Multidisciplinary Center on Childhood, Public Policy & Sustainability Society and a visiting fellow with the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives.
Gideon Nave is the Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz Assistant Professor in the Marketing Department in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Nizan Geslevich Packin is a professor of law at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, a senior lecturer at University of Haifa, and co-founder and director of research and development for The Multidisciplinary Center on Childhood, Public Policy & Sustainability Society.