Youth participation in the INHOPE webinar ‘Proactive vs reactive hotline communication’

The INHOPE network, a global network that fights child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online, organised a webinar on proactive versus reactive hotline communication on 1 June 2022. Two senior BIK Youth Ambassadors, João Pedro Martins (Portugal) and Kathrin Morasch (Germany), were asked to share their opinions on campaigns that aim to reach young people.

Date 2022-06-13 Author BIK Team Section news, youth Topic media literacy/education Audience children and young people, organisations and industry, research, policy and decision makers

The webinar was organised under the umbrella of European Year of Youth. During the webinar, Sabrina Vorbau (Project Manager at European Schoolnet) mentioned the recently launched Better Internet for Kids strategy by the European Commission, known as BIK+. This strategy includes a great spotlight on more youth participation in policy and program processes. According to Sabrina, youth participation is needed: “The young people and children of today are the users of tomorrow, it is therefore crucial that they have a firm seat at the table. Youth participation is not only nice to have but should be enforced in a meaningful way.

This webinar was a great example of truly engaging youth in important conversations. Both João and Kathrin critically discussed the communication strategies that aim to reach young people.

Success of a campaign

João explained that it is crucial to think about using different (social) media platforms to reach the target audience. The use of data can help to find the platforms young people use. In his eyes, a campaign should be easy to understand.

Kathrin added that data can reveal topics that are worth discussing. It can be a new topic that people want to learn more about, or a topic people know about but want to react to in a better way. This goes back to the title of the webinar; in some cases, a campaign can serve as a frontrunner or as a reaction to a certain phenomenon.

Kathrin and João continued by pointing out that the success of a campaign should be measured carefully. Solely analysing a success rate based on quantity (for example, the number of people that saw the campaign) can give a distorted image of success. This information will not reveal if the campaign reached the right audience. João advised to focus on detailed demographics of the audience to see if the campaign is truly effective.

It’s also useful to track complete conversion of a campaign. If a campaign aims to spark an increase in reporting CSAM materials, evaluation should aim to determine if this goal is met. The feedback loop should be active in every step of the campaign, to both gather information and make adjustments based on this. Honesty about the success of the campaign is ultimately better than covering up a ‘failed’ campaign that does not reach the right target group or goal. This offers the possibility to improve the next campaign.

The senior BIK Youth Ambassadors specifically mentioned the value of proactive campaigns for young people as they can educate on topics they might have not encountered yet, and prepare them for future situations. Kathrin commented: “Start working with young people from the beginning, let young people learn soft skills and competences so they know how to interact with different themes when the time is there.” João added: “A good campaign teaches youth how to deal with complex situations that have not happened yet. I understand ‘proactive’ in the most literal way, to reach out to young people on topics when there is no expectation that young people will look for information by themselves.”

A good strategy can entail both components of the theme of the webinar: proactive and reactive communication. A good campaign educates youth on first understanding certain behaviour and encourages them to act on this by learning how to report. The goal should not be to scare people, but to provide young people with the tools to understand what is going on. 

Dealing with sensitive topics like CSA and CSAM

It is often a struggle to design campaigns that address the serious nature of CSA (child sexual abuse) and CSAM. Kathrin suggested: “A good way to address this serious matter is to consult professionals in the design phase of the campaign. A psychologist would be able to advise on how to work with this theme and suggest what to put out there without scaring the people you want to reach”. João continued “Take time to find ‘the sweet spot’, the place where you make the topic relevant and serious enough for a young person to understand without them thinking ‘this will never happen to me’”. 

The senior BIK Youth stressed that the discussion around CSA, CSAM, safety, prevention and reporting must continue. João mentioned the importance of awareness raising on social media and sharing hotline numbers, and that the user should be made aware of how to report on certain platforms. It is often the case that young people only know a small part of the reporting process. Platforms should share how the full process of reporting works to obtain the right outcomes.

Charlotte van Lanschot (Global Marketing Manager, INHOPE) added to this by sharing the fact that it takes seven times to take something into the mind. “If you are trying to reach an audience with a message, you should expose them with the message multiple times. Being repetitive is not boring but very important.

Involve youth! 

Youth should be involved from the very beginning in the design of the campaign. João and Kathrin advise to start with youth consultations. This can help to identify the right communities of young people which the campaign should reach, and where the campaign will reach them. The aim should be to understand the target audience and discover the best communication channels for the campaign. A youth consultation at the start sets out a strategy for the campaign to be designed in an effective way which will lead to collective improvement. Including youth fosters creativity and challenges organisations to step outside of existing comfort zones.

Closing words of advice

The webinar ended with the advice of Kathrin: “Interact with young people in campaigns, use easy language, make sure the campaign is repeated, and have low barriers for youth participation. There is a great network within Better Internet for Kids (BIK); use this network!”

João concluded that a successful campaign must be meaningful and understandable by young people. A campaign should be tangible to the life and age group that is targeted, and be sure to include a call to action so that combined efforts are made to combat CSAM materials.

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