Youth Pledge for a Better Internet
On the occasion of Safer Internet Day 2020, the EC facilitated the launch of a new initiative in the form of a Youth Pledge for a Better Internet.
As part of this work, a group of Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Ambassadors prepared a pledge on how to make information on the apps and services they use on the internet more age appropriate for children and young people. After an initial mapping of recent research and youth consultation work carried out by Safer Internet Centres in the Insafe network, the BIK Youth Ambassadors collectively reflected on which priorities should be set in order to ensure that online platforms and services are designed in an age-appropriate way that truly meets the developmental needs of children and young people.
Encouraging online platforms and services to meet the information and transparency requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a key objective. Every citizen of the EU – including children – has the right to obtain information about what happens to their personal data "in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language". Article 12 of the GDPR emphasises that this should be particularly the case for information addressed specifically to a child. Moreover, Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that, in order to come up with truly informative, effective and appealing privacy or data policies, children should be involved in the information design and evaluation processes.
As such, on Safer Internet Day, the young people presented their pledge at a high-level meeting at the European Commission in Brussels, also involving members of the Alliance to better protect minors online (a self-regulatory initiative designed to improve the online environment for children and young people). The intention was that the companies involved could then reflect on these discussions internally regarding the age-appropriateness of the policies they have in place.
Following the launch event, the BIK Youth Ambassadors continued with this line of work throughout 2020 in ongoing dialogue with industry. Although initial plans for a co-design workshop to exchange ideas and best practices had to be modified due to restrictions caused by COVID-19, a number of virtual workshops and focus groups still took place with several industry partners launching dedicated co-creation projects to drive this agenda forward. As such, several BIK Youth Ambassadors and industry partners presented an update on the work at the Safer Internet Forum in November 2020. A further update was given during an online event on the occasion of Safer Internet Day 2021 to review progress made and set ongoing priorities in this space.
The Youth Pledge for a Better Internet initiative is ongoing and open to new activities and interest from other companies. In order to brand an individual company’s initiative under the Youth Pledge, the following criteria have to be fulfilled:
- Co-creation and co-design: children (under 18s) must actively contribute so children’s perspectives, needs and rights at the heart of the design process. Companies can be inspired by participatory design techniques.
- Involvement of a relevant and inclusive group of children and/or young people – companies have to ensure an ongoing dialogue with youth representatives, exploring innovative ways to give children and young people a space to express their views and to make sure their voice is listened to and acted upon.
- Tangible results – companies have to demonstrate that talking to children and young people about the design and evaluation of services in general, and privacy and safety policies in particular, and actively and meaningfully cooperating with them, leads to results. The initiatives have to result in more age-appropriate and child-friendly services and products (for example, more user-friendly information, videos, games explaining policies in child-friendly and age-appropriate format), and companies have to demonstrate in detail what improvements or changes resulted.
- Once recognised as meeting criteria 1-3, the results have to be presented to the public (for example, on the BIK platform, at a meeting of the Alliance to better protect minors online, or similar) and industry’s communication activities have to include a reference to #Pledge2Youth and to the Alliance to better protect minors online.
Interested participants should contact EUN (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the first instance for further instruction on how to proceed. The Alliance to better protect minors online will be subsequently informed about any applications which meet the above criteria.
 Participatory design can be defined “as a set of theories, practices and studies related to end-users as full participants in activities leading to software and hardware computer products and computer-based activities”: Veronica Donoso, Maarten Van Mechelen and Valerie Verdoodt, Increasing User Empowerment through Participatory and Co-Design Methodologies (2014). The Lundy Model of Participation, developed by Professor Laura Lundy, is an important source of inspiration for the BIK Youth Pledge initiative.
 Geographical (roll-out in more than one EU MS), age, gender balance should be ensured, children and young people with special needs should be also involved if feasible.