Our year with the Youth Pledge

Last year, a group of six Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Ambassadors met in Brussels to launch the Youth Pledge for a Better Internet on the occasion of Safer Internet Day (SID) 2020. Sina and Matej were among them and, in this article, they reflect on what has been accomplished in the last year.

Date 2021-03-22 Author Sina and Matej, BIK Youth Ambassadors Section sid, youth Topic advertising/commercialism, data privacy Audience children and young people, organisations and industry

“Originally, the Youth Pledge addressed two points. One was about transparency regarding the terms and conditions (T&Cs) of online services, the other was about the accessibility of privacy settings. During the last year, we personally participated in events with Twitter, targeting different topics such as media literacy, misinformation, social bubbles and many others. Other companies (such as Sulake, Samsung, LEGO and Super RTL) played their part as well. These efforts were then evaluated during an event on Safer Internet Day 2021. This definitely seemed like a promising start to us, but we decided to go deeper into what still needs to be changed and improved.

“Impacted by the pandemic, the event took place online. We really missed meeting people face-to-face in Brussels; however, it also forced us to try new approaches. This year, Alliance to better protect minors online members Facebook, Twitter, Sulake, Samsung, LEGO and Super RTL presented their progress towards better protecting children and young people online. Later, the rest of the Alliance then had the opportunity to react and comment. To make our speech as personalised and as relevant as possible, we decided to address their websites and platforms, identifying practices that we liked as well as improvements we thought were needed.

“The first issue that we talked about was that people were not aware of the T&Cs and their privacy settings. Targeting this issue requires, in our view, changing the way people think about them. Users often see T&C as something incomprehensible, so they do not bother reading them. However, in our opinion, that approach is wrong. Users should be encouraged to get to know their rights and responsibilities and be taught basic knowledge about them. This can be done with campaigns such as including users in the decision-making process, spreading awareness about new changes on online platforms, and reminding people that there are opportunities to change their privacy settings.

“Another point we found crucial was to make young voices heard. In our opinion, a very effective way to engage young people is to organise workshops and collaborate with them. This can be a nice way to approach young people and discuss relevant topics and subjects. It is important that these workshops really have an effect and are taken into consideration later in decision-making processes. In the best-case scenario, youth could be included in the decision-making process directly. Furthermore, we find it extremely important to stay in touch with young people, to ask about relevant topics, search out opinions and identify challenges. This cooperation needs to be kept periodical and frequent.

“We also emphasised the importance of covering all platforms and services accordingly. We argue that companies should care about both their flagship and side products equally. There should be equal conditions across all of a company’s platforms. We also proposed that companies engage more in-depth both internally and with other companies to learn about recent advances and improvements concerning internet safety.

“We consider providing accessible information to be a crucial step in helping users develop trust in the online platforms they are using. When companies are obligated to send a notification every time something with the T&Cs changes, it is also an opportunity to engage with users. The reminders should be well structured, simple and engaging.

“As a working practice, we already came across ‘certificates’ for fair T&Cs. We found this to be an effective practice, but it can only work properly if users are well informed about why the certification is issued and what exactly it is for. We also recommend involving nonprofit organisations and consortiums to ensure equality and high standards.

“One thing which we’d already recommended last year was a more human approach, such as the use of graphics, icons, simple navigation elements, search bars, and questions, such as ‘What is my private data used for?’. Finally, we would like online services to be upfront about suspensions of users’ accounts as it leads to more trust from the users’ side.

“We know that this can be quite a lot to take in at once, so we decided to create a poster to summarise all of these points. We are really happy that this year's Safer Internet Day event was such a success and hope that it will continue to bloom and have an impact on future decision-making processes. As BIK Youth Ambassadors, we love seeing the collaboration between companies and youth, and we are happy to help the Alliance members throughout the development process. We look forward to further joint effort, providing our feedback and views on relevant topics as needed.

“There is still a long way to go. The first step is to discuss what should change; the next one is to start to improve the platforms and implement the changes.”

Discover more about the Youth Pledge for a Better Internet on the Better Internet for Kids portal.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids Portal, European Schoolnet, the European Commission or any related organisations or parties.

About the authors

Bio picture of Sina, BIK Youth Ambassador from Luxembourg

Sina (Luxembourg)

Hello, I'm Sina from Luxembourg. I am a high school student and I volunteer at BEE SECURE, my national Safer Internet Centre. This was the second year that I participated in the Safer Internet Forum. I have always been interested in coding and computers, so I find it important that everyone is aware of the dangers that can occur on the internet. I really enjoyed meeting the other youth panellists, getting to know so many people from across the European Union, brainstorming on current topics, and organising the panel discussion. It was so fun and interesting to discuss these issues with policy makers and people from the tech industry.

Bio picture of Matej, BIK Youth Ambassador from the Czech RepublicMatěj (Czech Republic)

Hi! I'm Matěj from Czechia, a 16-year-old grammar school student. I invest my free time in electronics, programming, and drawing from which I've partially moved on to graphics. I started working with my national Safer Internet Centre this year. I've joined their youth panel and a conference about internet safety. After that, I was chosen to participate in the BIK Youth Panel 2019. Because I've been using computers from what I would call a really young age, I have a lot of different experiences related to using information technology. I believe that the internet is an awesome invention and I would love to contribute to helping people use it in the safest way possible.

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