"Growing up in the digital world": successful Safer Internet symposium

On Safer Internet Day 2024, the Austrian Safer Internet Centre organised a conference titled "Growing up in the digital world". Politicians and experts discussed current trends and challenges online with educators, parents, and an interested specialist audience. Young people were not only the subject of the event but were also actively involved in its organisation. They supplemented the specialist presentations with exciting insights into their digital world. The concept was interesting - the conference was fully booked within a few days. 

Date 2024-02-27 Author Austrian Safer Internet Centre Section awareness, sid Topic media literacy/education Audience media specialist, organisations and industry, parents and carers, research, policy and decision makers, teachers, educators and professionals

Digital trends and challenges in the lives of young people

What challenges and trends do young people face on the internet? How do beauty ideals in social networks affect their body image? What influence do AI tools such as ChatGPT have? And how can children and young people be supported in using digital media responsibly? These questions were addressed at the “Growing up in the digital world" conference on Thursday,15 February 2024, in Vienna. Media experts shared their knowledge with the audience, and the young people themselves had their say and guests to participate in discussions at self-designed themed stations. The event offered a varied programme with exciting presentations, workshops, and plenty of room for networking. 

The symposium was sold out and welcomed over 150 people. The event was opened by host Thomas Arnoldner (Deputy CEO of the A1 Telekom Austria Group), State Secretary for Youth Claudia Plakolm and Education Minister Martin Polaschek.  

To the photos of the Safer Internet Symposium (Credits: Saferinternet.at).

Between empowerment and restriction: self-presentation in social networks  

Saferinternet.at was able to attract renowned speakers for the specialist presentations. In her keynote speech, media scientist Maya Götz spoke about self-presentation in social networks. She discussed the opportunities for self-presentation offered to young people by social media and how conforming to clichéd ideals of beauty can also lead to dissatisfaction with one's body. As part of her presentation, Götz discussed how media literacy can be promoted in this context and how the common concept of beauty can be expanded. 

Myths, fairy tales, possibilities: Artificial intelligence in the education system  

Elke Höfler, Assistant Professor of Media Didactics and Language Didactics at the University of Graz, focused on another hot topic: in her keynote speech, she looked at artificial intelligence in the education system and offered an insight into the opportunities and challenges arising from the use of new technologies such as ChatGPT in the classroom. She also questioned common assumptions about AI and showed what opportunities the conscious use of AI can offer. 

Young people designed their themed stations  

A significant part of the symposium was taken up by the programme section designed by young people. 17 young people from the Saferinternet.atYouthPanel invited the audience to share their experiences and offered practical insights into personally relevant digital topics as experts in their own lives. In table groups, the young people spoke with the guests about ideals of beauty in social media, cybersecurity, cyberbullying, peer mentoring, artificial intelligence, and fake news. The young people then presented the exciting findings from the discussion rounds to the audience. 

The young people's expertise and critical faculties about digital topics were impressive. From the reflected handling of body images and filters in social networks to the competent use of AI technologies, They unanimously emphasised the importance of actively engaging with the opportunities and challenges of the internet. They also demanded this awareness from adults, whom they criticised for their lack of knowledge in this regard. This became clear when it came to the hotly debated topic of AI: "We know that you can't believe everything ChatGPT says. But we taught ourselves how to check AI-generated content." The young people would like more support from parents and teachers in this area because: "AI won't go away - so you have to learn how to deal with it!" 

Symposium as part of the "Safer-Internet-Aktionsmonat"  

The symposium took place during the "Safer-Internet-Aktionsmonat" in February, which Saferinternet.at has once again proclaimed this year together with the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. The aim is to raise awareness of the safe and responsible use of digital media in Austria on Safer Internet Day and throughout February. Schools and youth centres, in particular, are invited to take part in the month of action and carry out their own creative projects on the safe use of the internet and mobile phones. 

Find out more about the work of the Austrian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe

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