Partners of the 2021 edition were the University of Porto and Porto City Hall, with the support of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The motto for this year’s edition was ‘naturalising skills’, and the conference focused on finding ways to embed cybersecurity consciousness into citizens' lives from an early age, ensuring that knowledge is developed as part of the educational curriculum, as well as being implemented in companies and public administration bodies.
During the first day, the Portuguese Safer Internet Centre (represented by Coordinator Sofia Rasgado) participated in a panel where, together with other speakers from academia (Cristina Ponte e Carlos Neto) and clinical psychology (Rosário Carmona e Costa), she had the opportunity to discuss the importance of educating children and young people on cybersecurity topics.
Panel moderator, Pedro Santos Guerreiro, invited the speakers to comment on how children and young people could be encouraged to view cybersecurity skills as a natural extension of their other skills, embedding them in their everyday lives. Unsurprisingly, there is no instruction manual for this, but there are recommendations that can be shared. One speaker commented that a “return to origins” was needed, prioritising healthy and physical offline experiences so that children can better understand how to experience the online environment and culture.
Speakers stressed that digital literacy is a skill that needs to be constantly developed and equally agreed that there are high levels of digital ‘sedentary’ behaviour among children, which can potentially constitute a risk when online. The school environment and the family both play an important role in developing digital literacy. Children need to learn how to communicate, be creative, learn to work collaboratively, and develop critical thinking with regards to the content they find and produce online. It is also important to note that digital pedagogy needs to vary according to age, as cognitive abilities vary significantly among children and youth.
Teacher training is also needed as the landscape has changed. Children’s levels of concentration and/or anxiety have changed immensely if compared to, for example, 20 years ago. Today’s schools can both feature more traditional elements alongside technological ones. Teachers should configure themselves as mediators in these new hybrid learning processes because it is necessary to avoid excessively relying on technology. Additionally, the rights of children and young people to preserving their image online and maintaining their online privacy must be fully understood and respected.
The family should also be involved in the learning process for the use of technology with critical sense.
To sum up, family, school, children, young people all have a role in fostering digital literacy, as do companies and policy makers. For example, it is essential to include the promotion of learning spaces or the inclusion of digital technologies in schools in the policy-making process, allowing citizens to be more aware and conscious online in the context of a safe and secure framework in cyberspace.
C-Days was streamed for all interested parties through an open transmission. At the end of each day, the videos of the keynote speakers and round tables discussions were made available and, by the end of the conference, more than 5,000 views had been recorded. Recordings from the event are still available to view from the dedicated 2021 C-Days website.
Find out more about the work of the Portuguese Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.