"What if they post my video on their facebook?" Where Digital Surveillance, Policing, and Young Children Meet

Authors: Emily Kaufman*, University of Kentucky
Topics: Political Geography, Legal Geography, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Policing, law enforcement, digital surveillance, children, qualitative visual methods, big data, social media, story mapping
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Children growing up in U.S. cities today, particularly in socio-economically marginalized neighborhoods, are subject to near-constant digital surveillance, from geotagged social media posts to video surveillance. Video surveillance includes cameras in apartment complexes, schools, streets, churches, and playgrounds as well as police body and dash cameras. In treating surveillance and its creep as inherently intrusive, surveillance literature misses nuances within the experience of different types of surveillance, as experienced by different groups. In my research with children from age four to fourteen of various races and genders living near the poverty line in Cincinnati, many seem desensitized to surveillance itself. Living in heavily policed neighborhoods, with resource officers in their schools, they also express some nonchalance about policing even when negatively impacted by it. However, where policing and surveillance meet, specific fears take shape. Through digital drawing, comic-writing, and story-mapping, children explore and express their perceptions and experiences of surveillance, policing, and their intersections. Meanwhile, my participant observation and interviews with police officers validate children’s fears, such as officers posting body-cam footage on their personal social media sites. This paper has two main goals: first, it explores the dangerous intersection of policing, surveillance, social media, and socio-economically marginalized children, as well as their adaptations and contestations. Second, it argues for the incorporation of creative qualitative research (done with impacted groups) into often theoretical discussions of surveillance and data anxieties.

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