BIK European Youth Panel and Safer Internet 4EU Awards
Article By Lorcan Tuohy
In November, I had a welcome opportunity to take a break from studying for my Leaving Certificate to travel to Brussels. I was double-jobbing so to speak, as firstly, I was invited to Brussels to receive an award as a finalist in the inaugural Safer Internet 4 EU European Awards, having qualified during the summer. The second reason I was in cosmopolitan BXL was as a member of the Better Internet 4 Kids European Youth Panel representing Webwise.ie and Ireland on the Youth Panel.
My Digital Pledge and the Safer Internet 4EU Awards
I was thrilled during the summer to hear that my digital pledge had made the final in the Safer Internet 4EU Awards. I made and shared my pledge online last year to raise awareness of how we can all take responsibility for our online behaviour and how we can use the internet in a safe and ethical way. My digital pledge, which you can view below was a simple idea showing how we all have a voice in staying safe online.
I shared this on social media and a number of schools and youth groups in Ireland and other countries have replicated it and used it to help young people to think about how they use the internet. Click below to see my pledge. In advance of the awards, I also made a video explaining why I thought making a digital pledge was a good idea. You can check out this video here.
I received my award from Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner. She spoke on the day about the importance of the voice of young people and how the European Commission wants to help young people to have their voices heard on this really important topic so that we can have the skills and values we need to thrive in a digital society. I really think to have the Commissioner supporting the Safer Internet 4 EU campaign shows how important the development of digital literacy and knowing how to interact and react online is, and how seriously the European Commission is taking this 21st-century issue so that we can all be safer online.
Ireland was really flying the flag for internet safety on the day, as Harry McCann, founder of the Digital Youth Council, and Professor Brian O’ Neill from DIT were part of different panel discussions on the day. So many organisations do great work in the area of internet safety – something we should remember when we talk about the dangers that lurk online.
The BIK European Youth Panel
Over the past few months, I have had the absolute pleasure of being part of an amazing group of people in the BIK European Youth Panel. Eighteen of us from across Europe were chosen for the 2018 Youth Panel representing 16 countries. Technology, that can be so negative, was used positively to communicate in advance of the Safer Internet Forum. We met online using Adobe Connect with our coordinator, the wonderful Sabrina Vorbau, and continued our virtual discussions using Facebook Messenger and Google Docs. Finally, two days before the Safer Internet Forum in Brussels we met face to face and what a wonderful two days it was!
I travelled from Dublin to Brussels with Project Officer of Webwise, Jane McGarrigle and Education Officer Tracy Hogan, who were my chaperones for the event. We met our new European friends in the Crowne Plaza and got to know each other. The reality of having English as my first language was really clear to me – other than Hadia, the panelist from the UK, everyone else was speaking English as a second (and sometimes third!) language. In a way speaking English is a privilege but in another, it is a false sense of comfort – There is no way I could speak German as fluently as my European friends speak English.
This was definitely a working trip as from the time we arrived in Brussels we were focused on plans for the Safer Internet Forum. We worked over dinner in the ‘Funky Balls and Glory’ restaurant before an early start the next morning in Google near the European district. In Google, we continued working on our plans for the Safer Internet Forum as we had been planning our video and our workshop in advance. We had so many ideas about the issues that we wanted to explore because this was a real opportunity for us to represent the voice of young people across Europe. In the end, we agreed that we wanted our video to consider how we have to be aware of our identity online and think critically about what we see and hear online. So, the idea of #MyDigitalSelfandI was born … a call to all users of the internet to be themselves and to not be influenced by others. Here’s our video narrated by our Lithuanian Youth Panelist Algirdas featuring each of the 2018 European Youth Panelists:
We also planned our workshop for the Safer Internet Forum. This workshop brought together all of the ideas that we had wanted to discuss. In the hour-long workshop, we firstly had an opening activity which encouraged people to consider their online identity, thinking about things such as whether their virtual friends are the same as their ‘real’ friends, their privacy settings and how often they use social media. We then facilitated ‘deep dive’ discussion groups on six areas of interest to us: GDPR and Children’s Rights, Creators, Article 13 (Copyright), Fake News, Online Safety and the Impact of Digital Devices. In these groups, we presented our ideas about the topic and asked questions to help the participants to share their ideas and then presented a summary of all of the ideas from the groups. It was really interesting to hear the different opinions of the participants – especially as there were people from industry, education, advocacy groups, politicians and public representatives all with a shared goal to make the internet a safer place.
I genuinely want to thank Webwise, Commissioner Gabriel and the Better Internet 4EU team for the opportunity to be part of the youth panel. I have a new group of friends from across Europe who share a vision to make the internet a safer place to communicate, collaborate and learn. Together in our countries, we will help to organise events and campaigns for Safer Internet Day 2019 which takes place on Tuesday 5th February. Check out https://www.webwise.ie/saferinternetday for more information. Some of the things that struck me were how few people were aware of their privacy settings on social media, the number of different platforms people used, the number of friends people had on social media that were simply online friends- people not known to them in advance of meeting them online. I was also particularly interested in how many people were unaware of Article 13 and the child-specific provisions under GDPR. Discussing these issues in our two workshops really showed me how we all need to be mindful of our online presence and keep up to date. Here in Ireland, Webwise has a wealth of resources to support young people, parents and schools to do just that so it is worth paying a visit to www.webwise.ie to check out what is available.
I’m back in Leaving Certificate mode and preparing for my mock exams – in studying my Irish I was reminded of the old Irish seanfhocal ‘Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’. This means we rely on each other for shelter… and in this digital age, we definitely need to rely on and support each other.
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